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!