Check the box, ring the bell, I walked to the front of the church, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and was baptized shortly thereafter. I can remember the feel of the conviction to give my heart to Christ like it was yesterday; I could not escape His voice speaking to me. I asked Jesus into my heart, to be my Lord and Savior because I wanted to be associated with Him, but I had no idea He wanted to be my friend. Honestly, I knew that I wanted to be a part of what Jesus represented, but it felt like the journey ended there.
I guess you could say it was an obligation. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of the need for Jesus in my life, but I was unable to get past the box checker part of me that said Task Accomplished. What is the difference between relationship and obligation? With relationship, I do something for someone because I choose to do it for that person, out of respect. Obligation is a box to check off so that I can say I did it. For me, salvation has been an obligation; I knew just enough about Christ to admire Him and want to be a part of His world, but I never understood I had to give up ME to become like Him.
I heard the free grace part of salvation loud and clear. I can still hear the preacher saying “come on down and give your heart to Jesus. He died for you just as you are”, while the pianist played Just as I am for the 71st time. The part I refused to see was that He was giving me the opportunity to be His servant and become His friend.
Let me examine how that sort of dysfunctional relationship has worked for me. I became excellent at the Christian Eze version of Life. I showed up at church regularly and went to all the special events. I have attended all day prayer sessions and made attempts at the one-hour-every-morning-prayer (well, most of that time was spent dozing in between my list of requests). Yes, I can check the prayer box, but it was all about me. Those times were not times of enjoying the presence of my best friend, they were doing the rote 1,2,3’s of dead religion.
I lived most of my life not seeking Him and His word for decisions, life values, parenting principles, or purpose outside myself. That’s the problem with being a narcissist, I use everything, even Christ, to feel good, have fun, and bring me glory. The self-glorification often leads me to depression. When I stop the busyness long enough to look at who I am, all I see is failure. Seeing the failure leads to seeing no hope, and the vicious cycle engulfs my every thought.
I have been struggling with how to stop this cycle and live a life that glorifies Christ. One day, when I was at an especially low time, I heard Him say to me “you’ve got to want it”. As is His nature, He only gave those five words and He left me to ponder while I tried to box Him into a formula of Wanting It. Do I get in the prayer position for an hour every morning and pray? Maybe I read my Bible for an hour every night? How about no TV and just deny me anything fun? I could attend a few more seminars, listen to more teaching podcasts. I know, I’ll wear that t-shirt that says God is in control. Magical Christianity is a better name for that.
Through asking Him daily and spending time in His Word, I saw that His message to me came as a desire to commune with me and for me to be still in His presence so that I can know Him as my friend. He was telling me I had to want the relationship, to want Him and His essence instead of a few Christian-eze expressions. I have purposed to want Him and His ways, no matter the cost. I desire purpose outside myself.
I have recently made a conscious effort to slow down my insides long enough to spend more time in God’s presence, seeking Him, listening to Him, and giving Him praise. I’ve enjoyed our time together. His friendship brings life and peace. I’ve asked Him to bring to my remembrance actions from my past that didn’t bring Him glory. He seemed happy to accommodate my request. He readily brought one occurrence after another into my remembrance. Instead of hating who I have been and what I have done, I asked for forgiveness for each occurrence, and I have asked to be free from them so I can walk on without that baggage. It does not mean there was no hurt or rejection imposed on the people in my life. It does not change the lack of mothering I provided. It means that I am no longer going to be burdened with re-living it over and over to be reminded of how unworthy I am. I am graciously thankful for His patience with and His grace to finish my course aligned with Him instead of seeking my own glory. “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” Romans 5:9. That scripture and others speak to the wonderfully awesome gift He gave of justifying (just-as-if-I’d never sinned) me by His blood. I am saved through Him, not by anything of myself.
I am learning that Jesus is my friend. Amazingly, He works where I work, and He speaks to me while we work. He is not the guy that hands out free candy everyday just because I show up. He’s more than that. He points out small things to me, some are just so I’ll notice that He cares about the small things. Sometimes He models a principle. He questions my motives and points me in the right direction when I stray. Scripture is His voice also. Reading the same scripture I have read many times suddenly speaks to me in a way I have never heard. He is not rude and does not force the relationship. He waits for me to access Him. I can tell the days I try to operate in my own strength.
As Paul and Timothy encouraged the believers in Philippi with this verse in Philippians 1:6, I trust Christ to be do the same for me, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Life is a journey and my journey walking with my friend, Jesus, is just beginning.
In many ways, this is one of the hardest paths I have ever chosen because I am trying to leave behind what I have practiced my entire life. In other ways, it is peaceful and refreshing. I choose a life of purpose outside of myself and one based on the principles laid out in scripture. It has taken me a lifetime, a very long lifetime, to choose this. My prayer is that others will benefit, and Christ will be glorified.
The scripture I try to remember to focus on daily is Proverbs 2:1-5. “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures: Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
— Written by Kelli