When I became a Christian, I was only nine years old; I hardly knew basic multiplication, but somehow I was convinced I knew I wanted to be a Christian.
I’ll be honest, I had no clue of Who God is, and I in no way understood the severity of Christ’s sacrifice for me. But I’d been going to church for a few months at that point and it seemed like the right thing to do. I immediately became an apologist, looking for ways to defend my faith and learning as much as I could about evolution and false religions so I could stand up to them. I “learned” plenty (“learned” in quotations because I no longer view Jack Chick as a credible source) about all these things, but failed to learn more about God. It didn’t help that I was part of a legalistic Hispanic church. For many years I talked about God’s love, all while fearing that I would go to Hell for the slightest mistake.
I left that church around my junior year of high school and started attending a more modern one; a church that truly wanted you to “come as you are.” I loved the fresh approach and made it my home church. In my first year of college, I found a group in the area that met on Tuesday nights comprised of people from all over the Miami area who came solely to pour their hearts out to God in worship. There was normally a short teaching after the music, but that took me a while to get into; it was just too radical for what I’d known all my life.
The power of God.
The music drew me back every week, and in due time I found myself taking notes during the teachings and beginning to apply these new ideas to my life. The idea that God loved us all no matter what we’ve done or who we are. The idea that His grace is bigger than I could ever comprehend. The idea that we need to forgive as God forgives. The idea that God still heals today.
It’s like these people were reading the Bible or something.
My mind was being blown on a weekly basis, and I was coming to realize that I had put God in a box my whole Christian life. And, as the saying goes, “if you put God in a box, it doesn’t matter how big your box is, you’ve got a small God.” My God had been a spiteful, angry, vindictive God, ready to strike us down with a lightning bolt should we sin. If I fell asleep while praying, I’d fall on my face first thing in the morning to beg forgiveness.
Jesus wasn’t the Lover of my soul, He was just an angry dude I followed so I wouldn’t go to Hell.
My Tuesday night group, which eventually became a church I attended regularly, opened my eyes to the true beauty of God, and how unspeakably amazing He is.
Now, I’ll be honest again: Since I arrived in Germany, I’ve been lazy with my relationship with the Lord. I’ve neglected quiet times, worship times, prayer times, reading times, and tons of other things I used to do with Him.
Yesterday, I’d had enough. I made a playlist of worship music/ambient music to pray with and just sat on the floor to pour my heart out. This is where I have to admit that sometimes I still struggle with solemn, sad-faced Jesus. I knew I’d been slacking in my relationship and I would picture Him as disappointed any time I thought of it. But when I sat down to spend time with Him yesterday, within those first few seconds, an image formed itself in my mind:
Jesus was sitting across from me on the floor, Indian-style, and He was smiling. I heard Him say “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Tears came instantly, as my heart could not contain the understanding of the unmerited grace that had just been shown to me. He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t sad. He didn’t look like the depressing, helpless Jesus on the cross we see in churches. No, instead He was smiling an incredibly warm and welcoming smile, the kind that lets you know you’re loved and not the least bit in trouble.
I said all that to make this point: God is in love with you. He absolutely adores you. If you haven’t spent some time with Him lately, it’s never too late. He’s just waiting to hang out with His favorite person (that’s you!).
“God is not the way you think He is, He’s the way He is!” – Robin McMillan