I Am Not Responsible for Jesus

It all started out in a good place. I loved Jesus with all of my heart, soul/mind, body, and strength. When you love Jesus like that, it makes a huge difference in the way you live, the way you think, the way you breathe, and it spills out into the lives of those around you. A lot of people enjoyed, appreciated, admired, and were thankful for the spillage while others... not so much. 

I have tried to figure out over the years what went wrong and where. Am I like the seed cast among the thorns and the cares of the world choked it out (Matthew 13)? I have determined that is not the case for I have born fruit and I continue to bear fruit even if seems to be less flourishing than it should be. However, the question remains. What went wrong?

This morning, I was thinking about someone I grew up with. (I was informed yesterday that he is very sick with COVID-19.) When I think of him, a whole lifetime of memories cascade through my heart and mind like a waterfall. They are too many to write here today, but once again this question of what went wrong came to mind. I realized some things.

I have loved Jesus from my first memory. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to do what was right because I wanted to please Jesus and not disappoint him. I didn't want to bring him shame by my words and actions. He was my everything. As persecution arose and gathered strength from those who did not like the spillage, the pain mounted. Confusion mounted. I fought bitterness, because I knew that would defile me and others around me. However, fear crept in the back door and with every episode of persecution I became more fearful and more confused. One day I realized that people expected me to be Jesus-like to the point that I wasn't allowed to be human. If I messed up in the least little way, those who knew about it acted shocked and horrified. On the flip side of that, if I tried to establish boundaries or express needs, I was ignored because I was too rigid in my efforts to please God. Eventually, a belief took root in me that was absolutely false. It is a belief about my responsibilities as a child of God.

Over the years, I grew to feel responsible for others and their choices regarding Jesus. I felt responsible for the consequences of their decisions. I wanted them to have the same sweet fellowship with Jesus the I had and I didn't understand why anyone would fight such a thing. I also grew to feel responsible for Jesus's reputation. I felt that the way I lived and the choices I made had such power over others that I could cause someone to turn from him if I did anything to tarnish his name. 

I wanted to be Jesus' defender and shield 

when it was his job to be mine. 

As this realization opened to me this morning, I began to comprehend the enormous weight I have been carrying all these years. No wonder I burned out! No wonder I sought refuge in someone who seemed to want to defend and protect me. Jesus seemed to have become impotent in that department when he allowed nominal Christian peers to torment me, when I believed that I had to take up the sword and shield to protect Him. Granted, I did not do all of this knowingly. It was a process over time, a chipping away of my person by allowing others to run over me, believing that turning the other cheek, forgiving, and covering a multitude of sin with my love was the right thing to do in a situation in which it was not the right thing to do. I was burned out and I didn't even know what I was or how I had gotten there. 

So, this morning I have come to realize for the first time that it is not my job to protect and defend Jesus. He is God. He is strong. He has overcome. My job is to love him with my whole heart, soul/mind, body, and strength. And even that, I confess, I cannot do this on my own. I can only love him as he gives me the strength and the grace to do so. As my past choices have so plainly revealed, I can only love him and give myself to him because he first loved me and gave himself for me. 

Please, Lord! Help me to love you better!

Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter, 1

I walked into the counseling office, barely holding my heart together as, little by little, I felt it shredding inside my chest. When had things gone so wrong? How far do I travel back in my history before finding where the pain all began? And at what point did my heart start to go off the rails? 

Now that imminent danger had passed, I had space to explore my past – all of it. 

Psychologists have fought for years over what molds a person into what and who we are. Is it biology? Is it environment – home or otherwise? Is it traumatic experiences or over-sheltering of parents? Is it our own sin-filled souls? There are so many things that contribute to who we are and who we become. The honest answer is that it is all of those things and more. 

As I sat in the chair and thought of my past, I saw the pain stretch out before me, daunting and unending.

I realized as I talked with my therapist that the further I went back in time, the further I needed to go. I felt an overwhelming sense of grief as realization struck me of the immense suffering I have endured throughout my life. How do you unwind a ball of twine so tangled and tightly wound? Yes, people have hurt me. Yes, people have betrayed me. Yes, people have failed me. And, yes, I have done all of those things to myself. How do any of us survive this world and what is the point, anyway? 

Don’t stop reading.

Truth is, we are all broken people, sin infecting our souls – every last one of us. We fail ourselves and each other every single day. Perhaps unwittingly, but we fail just the same. So who is to blame for all the pain and dysfunction in this world? We all are. 

But there is good news. 

Jesus never hurt or betrayed or failed anyone, and Jesus knows what it feels like to be hurt and betrayed and failed. Yet, his love is so deep, so full, so free, so powerful that he not only forgave all the wrong done to him, he died for all the wrong done to him. He loved us so much that he suffered in the Garden and suffered on Calvary and suffered excruciating separation from his Father. 

This is something I struggle to wrap my mind around. 

I confess that this is a hard concept for me to grasp and, even after decades of his faithfulness to me, the walls go up. The walls go up when I get scared. The walls go up when I feel threatened. The walls go up when I feel weak. The walls go up when life feels out of control. The walls go up when I’m tired of the battle. The walls go up when someone disappoints or hurts me. The walls are always going up. Yet, Jesus loves me through it all. Even when I can feel my heart beating hard and stubborn inside my chest, he keeps on loving me. Why?

Jesus knows what it is like to be human. 

He has suffered the daily grind of life. He has suffered humiliation and rejection. He has suffered the loss of loved ones. He has waged war against temptations to his limited human flesh. He knows what it is like to be hungry, tired, distraught, sad, loved, unloved, all the same emotions we struggle with in life on a daily basis. He understands our frame because he has lived in one. Sinless, yes, but it was a finite human body with human needs and limitations and emotions all the same. 

He was not born knowing he was God incarnate. 

He grew up being taught the scriptures, learning as he grew up that he was the Messiah, growing into the knowledge of what that meant for his future. He knew, because the prophets had written about him. 

So, what is the point?

I’m not really sure, other than it brings comfort to my pain-filled soul knowing Jesus suffered in life like I do, knowing he has compassion and unending, unfettered, unconditional, and too often unrequited love for me. And this is what calms the storm inside as I sit in that chair and stare at the unending stretch of pain threatening to consume my soul. Jesus tenderly holds all of my pain (no matter the source) along with all my tears (shed and unshed) in his gentle, loving, compassionate hands. When my heart is hard, he ever so gently massages it until it relaxes in his embrace, never getting frustrated with me, never laying my heart aside, never abandoning me to my pain. 

So what is this to you?

My friend, if you do not know my Jesus, he will do the same for you. If you do know Jesus, remember that he will never let you go. And whether you know him or not, never forget that you can trust him even when you can’t.  

Dear 20-Year-Old Self, Live Like You're Loved

Driving home from campus today, Hawk Nelson's song, "Live Like You're Loved," played on the radio. I was thinking through the lyrics as I listened and found myself so happy that I am so well loved by my Lord Jesus. I couldn't help but think of different seasons throughout my life and realize I have been "loved" in so many different ways by various people (all types of love, not just romantic love). But, what is love? How do people in our society think of or define love? How did I view love when I was twenty? 

What would I say to my 20-year-old 
self about love if I could? 

I would tell myself that "LOVE SETS YOU FREE."

I would also say, "Engrave 1 Corinthians 13 on your heart! Hardwire it into your brain!" 

The Way of Love - 1 Corinthians 13

13 ... Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ... 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(ESV, via BibleGateway.com, to see what else the chapter says about love.)

These verses provide a great tool of measurement whereby you can examine yourself and how well you love others. At the age of twenty, I did use it as such.  Where I failed was in not using it to measure the love of those who claimed to love me. If I could, I would drill this need into the brain of my 20-year-old self.

Is the one who claims to love you patient and kind? Do they envy others or boast in themselves? Are they arrogant or rude? Do they insist on their own way? Are they irritable or resentful? Do they rejoice at wrongdoing or do they rejoice in the truth? Do they bear up under things? Do they believe in and hope in and endure all things in faith? Do they have faith and hope and love abiding in their hearts in such a way that the fruit of the Spirit is displayed in the day to day way in which they live? 

Do you expect this high and holy way of love from yourself? And do you also expect it from others - especially from the one with whom you think you want to spend the rest of your life? Do not let the temptation to settle for less EVER WIN! 

To my 20-year-old self I would say, 
"Live like you're loved, because you are!