The water moved over her fingers like a waterfall as she caressed the food off of the plates and down into the sink in preparation for the dishwasher. As I watched her and the steady cascade of water rinsing whatever came under its path, a seemingly unrelated question popped out of my mouth. Indeed, a very important question.
“Grandma, how do you know Jesus loves you? How do you know Jesus was real?”
I’m not even sure that she stopped in any way to ponder the answer, for her countenance was filled with faith when she responded, “The Bible tells me so.”
I felt myself reel in childlike wonder. I wasn’t satisfied.
I wanted something deeper, something I could feel sure of; a certainty. I need to feel Jesus. Yes, at age five, I wanted certainty that Jesus’ love was indeed real and that the story of his life and love wasn’t just some story spun to deceive little children into thinking they were cared for when the world around them was plainly cruel (or at least I’d experienced that it could be).
Although I prayed with my Grandma, and sometimes at home by myself as my family didn’t talk much about God or Jesus outright, I wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t feel Jesus, see Jesus or hear Jesus so for me, Jesus was an idea – a story. I wanted his love to be real, for their to be a plan for my life and for me to be protected, but I couldn’t see this materializing.
I kept up my search for truth and started reading the Bible when I was around 12. I hit a dead end because I started at the beginning, in the heaviness of the Old Testament. While it may highlight Jesus’ future coming, I found it to be laced with condemnation and harshness, nothing like the stories of Jesus I was learning in Sunday school. What I was learning about Jesus was not how God was portrayed and I stopped reading. For almost 20 years.
During this time I was still in communication with the creative essence of the universe, but more so when I was in tragedy. God, please help me! Are you hearing me?!
I didn’t know how to listen. I didn’t know how to cultivate a two-way relationship with the creator of all life. I was looking for relief in my outside circumstances. I didn’t know this relationship begins within.
Sure, I’d go to church for the obligatory holidays or while visiting my Grandma, sometimes even with a friend. I longed for the peace and belonging I witnessed in those who were devout, but I wasn’t feeling it and I’d soon go astray. Churches are made up of people and people can be fickle. I didn’t want fickle. I still wanted certainty.
Over the years, my life complexified. I created more life outside of myself and became a wife and mother. Without knowing fully how to care for myself, I now had other beings depending on me 24/7. As I was plagued with the surfacing of every demon ever implanted or unconsciously perpetuated in me, I strived to rekindle and recreate a connection with my source, the breath of all life. Part of me wanted to choose Jesus, but I didn’t trust him. I couldn’t trust the male species in general and since he and his father were of the same make in my eyes, I wouldn’t get too close.
My connection with Jesus was shelved. Not for good, but more so I could connect with the concept of a non-gendered source of all creation, an undefinable source of unconditional love and presence. Humans are so good at separating things out; we’ve even separated out God into so many variations that it can make a person mad to consider just which one we need to choose. I mean, who wants to go to hell for not making the right choice?
Oh wait, living can be hell. Hmmm…
When hell struck its deepest chord in my life, I was grateful for the months I had spent connecting with the divine in all of life as they prepared me for making a choice in the face of death: shrivel in fear or surrender in trust. I chose surrender, but it was just a beginning. I thought I was awake. In reality, I was just conceived into an awakening that will likely last through my own death.
I’m okay with this now. Awakening isn’t a destination for me; it’s a journey.
As I surrendered into the trust of my life being in the hands of a loving creator, one which always resides with me (and always has and will), I simultaneously decided that I would walk with truth. In the beginning, this was about learning to feel truth in my body, to sense truth deeply and to live truth – to be honest with myself and others, to create my future intentionally, to be here now with whatever arises, to be attentive with every breath. I’m still learning, of course.
“Now, I only needed to devote myself to the daily practice of going within, a daily practice of breathing Jesus.” – Amy Wright Glenn, Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula
My questions about Jesus have waited for me while exploring various spiritual teachings. I find pieces of truth in all of them and yet I cannot deny the Christian roots my beloved Grandma shared with me as a child. Jesus doesn’t need me, but I need to make peace with Jesus.
I’ve pored over the stories of Christian controversy where Jesus is just a myth. I’ve read about how some religions feel Jesus was not of God, but of the devil. I’ve read account after account of Jesus being something other than the embodiment of truth and love which is portrayed in my interpretation of the New Testament. I’ve entertained the stories about him simply being a master of sorts, simply another human being just like me and you, who reached enlightenment.
Reading is great and helpful, but sensing truth in life is more powerful for me. I needed to entertain the skeptic so I could make room for truth. I’ve reached the point now where I can say to the little girl at the dishwasher, “Regardless of the stories, it’s safe to trust Jesus. His love, his presence – the presence that is the basis of all life, is pure.”
More than once, at specific cruxes in my life, I chose Jesus. And I choose to trust him now. Not for him, not for a religion, not for a church, not for my family or my late Grandma, not for you, not even for God (as if anything is so separate). No one needs this from me.
I choose for me and I choose for humanity. Because I need to make peace within myself and with this human embodiment who represents all of creation. This man whose love is pure and something I’ve only known through him, and not this world. Most importantly, I choose him because when I focus on his loving presence within and in all of life, confusion leaves and clarity enters. This is enough for me.
Choosing, breathing and trusting Jesus doesn’t exclude all other religions or teachings. It embodies the epitome of any valuable teaching and for me, it simply honors the roots I was given while acknowledging that regardless of what path I’m on, he meets me here – now.
“They arrived at the door of the workshop. Again Jesus stopped, ‘Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.’
‘Does that mean,’ asked Mack, ‘that all roads will lead to you?’
‘Not at all,’ smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop.
‘Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.'” – William P. Young, The Shack