I remember the first time that I doubted my salvation. I was in middle school and someone implied (aka told me – there is no subtlety in middle school) that my “way” of becoming a follower of Jesus was not sufficient. A real encounter with Jesus involved a certain prayer, usually after a certain invitation, and a certain response. This was not how people in my church world did the things. I tried to explain Confirmation, which was my most intentional response to date, and immediately things went even further south. That was “a Catholic thing” and I knew what that meant. My ticket to eternity was not punched in the eyes of that particular friend.
This trend did not end there. Sadly, I spent much of the next 20 years trying to give labels and moments and markers to the experiences that would qualify me for the in crowd. Throughout that time, this particular question was never on my mind. The search for belonging to the Christian community (both now and in the afterlife) was the driving factor in my quest for a sufficient demonstration of belief .
It was during my mid 30s that something significant shifted. I began to long for reconciliation and restoration. I quit fighting to be in the inner circle and realized that the one that I wanted to spend time with was always on the margins. The more that I looked for Jesus in the bigness and the production, the more I realized that I would always be disappointed. The life I longed to emulate would never thrive in the fancy, best or flashy. The only thing that I could hold onto was the fact that I just couldn’t shake the call to love like Jesus. It was only at that point that I first thought, what if Jesus is not all that I think he is?
So, I had to go back to the basics. What was it that I longed for and valued in my faith? Stillness. Peace. Hope. Joy. Grace. A call to include. The mandate to serve, with a pressing desire to live authentically seeking God’s will. All of these things could be found in the person of Jesus. Every time I tried to divorce myself from the trappings of rules and right/wrong thinking and closed minded religiosity, I could not shake the need to connect with this human example of love.
But, Lacy, what about the question? What do we do if Jesus is not enough? My first thought is which Jesus are we talking about? Are talking about the Jesus that the world told you about? Are we talking about the Jesus that your middle school friend dictated you were not qualified to spend eternity with? Are we talking about the Jesus that you are afraid might know the real truth about you? Or, are we talking about the Jesus that invited and welcomed and healed and advocated for the least, last and lost? Because when I go back and read about the Jesus of the Gospels, the one who’s life story was recorded by those who knew him, that’s the Jesus that I just can’t shake.
I want to clarify that by “shake” I don’t mean that I have atonement all figured out. I also don’t mean that I believe all the things that other Jesus people believe. I actually have about a 60/40 track record on the majors, and for someone who is hell bent to fight the rules of the establishment, I feel like that is some kind of big fat miracle in and of itself. What I know TODAY is that on the days that I’m sitting in the ‘I just don’t have the belief to believe today’ camp, I know that the Jesus I read about joins me there. I think that’s my most honest position and that is exactly the person that Jesus would have hung out with. He was not happily schmoozing with the religious leaders. He was not writing the rules to belong. He was not the slickest and most publicly appealing. He wasn’t holding the press conferences for attention. He wasn’t twisting truth for personal gain. He was honest. He was true to himself. He was human. He was an advocate. He was an includer. He was determined to offer freedom. He was Jesus.