Monday, March 22, 2010

Following Jesus

"Have you heard the story? The Christ is finally here!"

If I had been thinking about it, I would have seriously wondered why these words were having such an effect on me. I wasn't thinking about it, though. I was feeling it. I was living my life, doing my "stuff", enjoying the first year with my new husband and periodically curling up on the couch listening to "Hosanna" and immersing myself in the total joy of Jesus' entry parade into Jerusalem.

"Behold your salvation, He comes to the willing heart.
Blessed over all nations, His love will never depart.
Now He's reigning victorious, forever He is Lord.
Christ has delivered us,
We must fall down before Him,
Lay our hearts and souls before Him,
Lord of all."

One of the oddest things, and I realized this at the time, was that as I sang the words, "We must fall down before Him," something inside of me literally wanted to fall down before Jesus, wanted to literally lay my heart and soul, my self before Him. I had never in my life wanted to fall down before anything. Not on purpose, anyway. I kept feeling an overwhelming urge to fall in worship before this Jesus, the Jesus of the gospels, of Nazareth, of Jerusalem, the burly carpenter Jesus who built things with His hands, took care of His momma, called his followers friends, who touched and loved people that no one else would even look at. In no way did I think to connect this Jesus with the Jesus of the church. Church was different, in my mind. It seemed to involve a set of rules that helped one be good and respectable, rules that I was pretty sure I'd never be able to follow.

But this seemed like the following thing had been accomplished by Him somehow, that He would have wanted me and all I would have had to do is want Him back. And I did want Him. I just wasn't sure where He was. Was He dead and buried? In which case, I had missed Him just like I missed Marilyn Monroe and Elvis?

In April, a few months after I had received the cassette that had turned me in an emotional question mark, my mother-in-law, Betty, invited Mark and I to go to church with her for an Easter service. We were going to her house for Easter lunch, and I felt that going to to church was a good, pleasing the mother-in-law thing to do. The church had recently hired a new pastor, and Betty seemed excited to have us come to the church, to meet him.

At first, the service seemed like any church service I had ever been in. In fact, it felt like that all the way through. The pastor, Rev. Jim Ennis, was young and dynamic and interesting to listen to, and he had a gentle, sweet spirit. I wasn't familiar with the songs like I would have been had they been Christmas carols, and I have to admit that I don't remember much of the sermon. I actually felt very closed and careful, emotionally. I do remember, though, hearing the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. Looking back on it, all of my questions about where Jesus was now, and whether or not I would ever actually know Him were being answered in this service. Pastor Jim was saying that Jesus had risen from the dead, that He was alive even now, that He loved me and wanted to have a relationship with me. And Pastor Jim invited anyone who wanted Jesus in their life in a very real way to simply tell Jesus that, through prayer. And then, thankfully because I wasn't sure how, the pastor talked to Jesus with us.

For the first time since I had received the cassette tape, and probably in my life, I talked to Jesus. It was a very practical decision for me. I didn't feel anything, really. There was no "weeping and throwing myself in the spiritual arms of the Lord I had been longing for" moment. I just said, "Okay." And that was it.

I do remember very distinctly getting into the car to drive to Mark's parents, who just lived minutes away, and saying to Mark, "If they think I am going to follow their rules, they've got another thing coming." I think now, that was bravado talk for, "I am never going to be able to be good enough for God, so if that's what He requires, I am so screwed."

So I had met Jesus. It made sense to me, that He was real and alive. I had been feeling Him for months. And I was glad to know that it wasn't the idea of Him that had been moving me so much, but the actual Jesus.

But what did it mean, to follow Him?

More later...


Anonymous said...

the big question, "What DOES it mean to follow Jesus?"
Sam asked me yesterday what if he decided to not follow Jesus for one day to see what is was like. Pause......
I didn't quite know the answer but Megan piped up and said "Well Sam, if you have Jesus in your heart and you choose not to follow him for one day, He will still be there the next day." Silent..........This is where my wisdom was supposed to come in. UH..........Then I said that if he was to reject Him for one day that it might be a llittle risky. Sam quickly responded NO, I don't mean reject Him. PHEW!!!!!was my thought.

Then Megan comes out with a statement, a lady we know thinks we think that as Christians ,Black is a bad color to wear (in response to Megan choosing black nail polish for her nails at this birthday party, she apologized to me about it as I looked at her and reasured it was no problem.)... See More

She continues, "If she is a christian and thinks this, what do other Christians think?" Silence again........The conversation continued but man why don't we as parents get a warning to these types of questions?

Who ever said parenting is a no brainer?

Kelly said...

Dana, I think sometimes we parents try to hard to find some divine, profound wisdom, when the really wise thing is simpler. I think Megan was right on. I try to do the same thing that you did, stay silent and let God work it out, thru me if He wants, and if not, through someone else. Keeping silent is work for me, but I am learning that God's wisdom is not my wisdom. I feel like I always have some "smart" reply on hand, and God has to warn me to keep quiet. And then, things come up that are so huge, I haven't a clue what to say and I thank God the running of the Universe (or even my life) isn't up to me!!!

Also, the wisdom of God is rooted in the love of God, which often makes it not common-sensical. I mean, how "common sense" is it, that the God of the Universe would send His Son to die for a bunch of people who don't even care about Him?

I want to keep thinking, praying and writing about following Jesus, because I think the more the church tries to define it for us, the more confused we get. If it is s so complicated, how did Peter the fisherman or Matthew the tax collector or Mary, Jesus' momma figure it out? W/o the benefit of the New Testament or a "church"? Do you ever read the gospels and think that this group of people who were simply madly in love with Jesus have got something that we don't? Amidst the persecution, the poverty (real, if Jesus doesn't turn this bit of food into a feast, we're not eating today poverty), the broken lifestyles, the Roman still seems so simple. ... See More

I think Sam's question is key. What if I didn't follow him, meaning follow His "rules"? Is following Jesus following rules? If Sam broke all the rules but refused to reject Jesus, is that still following? Maybe Sam just wants to see how many of the rules Jesus actually wants him to follow, and how many are man-made, that make Jesus frown when he hears them taught as His? How many "black nail polish" rules are there? If we cut them all out, what would be left? I think many of us,( and Sam will probably be a leader in this one day), could benefit from a pruning. Do we need to cut everything back until we find Jesus, just Jesus, and then let Him build us back up so that we are living lives that please Him because of our faith in His salvation and head-over-heals love for Him rather than calling Him Lord but trusting our rule following to make us good enough for Heaven, just in case His forgiveness/love/sacrifice isn't enough.

Lots to think about...

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