Sunday, November 13, 2011

Discovering Jesus Part 9: A Park Bench

hypocrisy |hiˈpäkrisē|
noun. the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform; pretense.

I tend to think in black and white. Right and wrong. Fair and unfair. I take people at face value and I judge them based on how well their words and actions coincide.

It's one major reason why I spent most of my life not believing in God. Because most of the people I knew who claimed to have faith in God did not, in any visible way, appear to be living on that faith. They'd go to church on Sunday and spend the rest of the week full of worry, lies, immorality, and unkindness. I figured that either their god was a big hoax or he wasn't worth my time.

But then, on July 21, 1999, I had an encounter with YHWH that showed me, not only how wrong I had been, but how much more I had to learn about all the gray in this world.

As with any life-changing event, it came out of nowhere. The day started with me driving from Iowa back to Minneapolis to celebrate my ex-boyfriend's birthday. We quickly got into a fight and I ended up at 'home' at Michael's parents' house.

Michael got off of work earlier than usual that evening, gave me a call, and came over. We went for a walk through the neighborhood, and he asked me what I was thinking about the whole "Jesus thing."  By this time - about 6 weeks after we met - I had read a Christian apologetics book that Michael had given me, and I was thinking alot more about Jesus than I ever had in my life. The book - written for Christians - approached the subject of faith from a completely intellectual perspective, and I constantly found my arguments against Christianity defeated.

So I told Michael that, in my head, I could rationally accept that Jesus was the Son of God who became a man, died, and rose from the dead. I no longer had any good reason not to acknowledge this as logical fact. But in my heart, I refused to believe it.

This, friends, makes all the difference in the world. At this point in my story, I wanted to disconnect myself from intellectually assenting to a truth without choosing to let it make a difference in my life. This is the difference between believing in Jesus and actually following him. For even the demons believe (according to James) but still they rebel against God.

Michael asked me why I would make a statement about Jesus' identity - a pretty big statement, like, he's God - but not want to accept this at an emotional and life-changing level. Because I don't want to be a hypocrite, I replied.

You see, I hadn't actually picked up a Bible yet. I didn't have a clue what it meant to follow Jesus or to call myself a Christian and the last thing I wanted to do was put a label on myself that had no real definition in my life. The last thing I wanted to do was be a sitting target for people just like me who mocked Christians and their weak, foolish faith. How could I claim to know God when I...well....didn't actually know God?

And then Michael gave me the wisdom that I have been living with ever since - he told me that it's not my job to figure out everything there is to know about God. He said that knowing God takes a lifetime of experiences with him, and that God is more than able to reveal himself to me, if I am willing to listen and learn from him. He said that all I needed to do was acknowledge God and ask him to come into my life, to show me himself.

And that made sense to me. In the end, I reasoned, I wouldn't be a worse person if I tried this whole Jesus-thing and it didn't work out. So Michael and I sat down on a park bench, and we prayed together, and God changed my life.

Many people say that they didn't feel any different after they turned their lives over to God; they didn't feel a sudden presence of the Holy Spirit come over them or have a rush of adrenaline. Their process of transformation was slow and gradual. But for me, it was instantaneous. I sat down on that bench because my rational, logical mind said that I had no more arguments against God and I should give Jesus a try. I didn't feel like I was a sinner in need of a savior. I wasn't lost and in despair, grasping for a lifeline of hope. It was the most intellectual decision I've probably ever made.

Yet, somehow, when I repeated the words that Michael was saying that night, my heart was totally and completely affected. I believe that it's because I came to God honestly, without pretense or preconceived ideas of what I was getting myself into. I simply said that I wanted to know him. And I meant it.

The funny thing about the real God is that even though he could force people to blindly follow him, even though he could wipe out all his enemies with one breath, even though he could show up and shut the mouths of fools - he doesn't. Instead, he is patient. He loves people enough to let them use their own minds and make their own choices, even if it means rejecting him.

And he - oh why, God? - lets idiots like me be his representatives on this earth. Because now that I am getting to know this God, the closer I get to him, the more beautiful and majestic I see him, the more I know that I am a hypocrite. As long as I live in this body of sin, I will claim to believe all sorts of things about God but turn around and live just the opposite. I am married to Christ but I am a whore who cheats on him with cheap, worldly thrills.  And still, he lets me claim his name. He lets his reputation - what other people think about him! - come through what people experience when they know me.

So my prayer today is the same as the one I offered that summer night in 1999:
Lord, I am a sinner and I need you. Come into my life and change me. Let me know your holiness and make me like you.

1 comment:

  1. So good Nicole. I love being reminded of that story.