I can’t remember for sure but it feels like my first introduction to Jesus was probably to his clear set of rules. In my world of chaos, the thought of some sort of blueprint was appealing even if I thought early on most of the consequences for rule-breaking would be hell. As the years and I both grew, I read about how Jesus wept, how much he liked bread and fish, and I learned about his John 3:16 kind of love.
I had tasted (and for sure tested) and seen just enough to know God was real and had at sweet times felt the weight of his arm across my shoulders.
But mostly, and without knowing it, he remained thin and flat as the pages in my Bible.
With one side of my mouth I would sing Jesus Loves Me and with the other side I would try and hold it in such a way so as to be the very good girl he could love. My heart was as fully in this Jesus kind of life as much as it knew how to be…yet there was a disconnect, two ends of a rope I couldn’t get to meet no matter how hard I pulled at them. Through many books and conversations over the years, I would catch a hint of a smell of something I didn’t quite know I was always after. All these words helped inch my toes toward some great cliff of freedom I suspected was out there in the great Christian wild.
Then one night years ago (I still remember the moment), I picked up a book called Ragamuffin Gospel.
And I finally met an inconsistent, unsteady Brennan Manning, a man whose cheese was falling off his cracker and explained from the first chapter that ‘Something is Radically Wrong’. By the end of those chewed up, tear-stained and highlighted words, Jesus rose real as skin on bones to me from a thin, flat papery grave.
Brennan helped me to understand the thing I could never connect for myself and more than any person I’d come across:
I am loved just as I am.
And this changed everything for me.
Around a month ago, I was finishing Manning’s memoir All is Grace. In this last book and towards the end of his life, he wrote:
If asked whether I am finally letting God love me, just as I am, I would answer,
“No, but I’m trying.”
I read these words and my breath leaked from my lungs like a tiny hole in a car tire. I didn’t move for a very long time, trying to absorb it all:
The man who made me believe that God really loves me had spent his entire life convincing himself.
A couple of weeks ago, I met for an evening coffee with the sort of women who thankfully do not splash in the shallow end of conversations.
Only several minutes in and one asked ‘So, like, what’s your deal?’
I had only just met her but I recognized a kindred and understood the question. I started my story at five years old when there was the kind of event that leaves the rest of the days known as After and wound up to how I came to be and who and how my heart desired to serve. My hands may have flown off my wrists while I was talking and I overheated towards the end over my passion for the next generation. I trailed off with the kind of laughter meant to put a cover over sharp feelings.
‘I guess I’m just always trying to help out the five year old me.’
As I said this it felt just like I had gently opened up both hands cupped together to reveal something rather delicate inside.
‘In some way do you think we’re always trying to heal our own kind of hurts?’
We sat looking into my hands each with her own thoughts for a full moment before we dove deep once more.
Who did you need when you were younger?
Who was it that should’ve come along and wiped your tears, helped you up the hill, told you that you would live through this ache that threatened to swallow you up? Who could’ve whispered to you of the kind of hope that can only be spoken from another’s wounds? The kind that resurrects a thin flat-papered savior to a Jesus so near you feel his warm breath on your cheek every minute.
Go and be that person.
Someone needs you…and it will change everything.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4