I used to have a hard time loving Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong, this struggle to love wasn’t an act of rebellion or a side effect of disengagement; I wanted to love Jesus, I really, truly did.
I just didn’t know how.
What I struggled with was the idea of Jesus as fully God and also fully human – it made no sense to me. I understand God – He’s holy and omnicient and perfect. I understand humans – we’re messed up and confused and broken.
What I couldn’t comprehend was how Jesus could be both.
Because I had no category for Jesus, no precedent, I decided to simply default him into the same category as God. I felt he fit far more appropriately there than in the same category as humans, the same category as me.
The problem with this logic is that, in stripping away Jesus’s humanity, my perception of him became terribly distorted. Once I determined his lack of understanding about what it’s like to really be human, I found it difficult to trust him.
I began to read the stories of his life with cynicism, dismissing his every hardship with the same justification:
How hard could it have been, really? I mean, after all, you were FULLY GOD.
This lack of trust made it impossible for me to truly love him.
But, even as I wrestled, even as I questioned, Jesus drew me to himself relentlessly. Because of my hesitancies, I expected judgment and fury.
He gave me grace.
My heart’s shifting didn’t happen all at once. Over the past several years, I’ve started to notice the acute presence of Jesus in an abundance of moments – every-day, ordinary, human ones:
Sitting on foreign dust with children who can only understand my smile. The fragrance of comfort food steaming from a pot on the stove. My husband’s laughter mixed with my own. New baby snuggles. That song I can’t stop listening to because there’s something deeper there than just the lyrics and the chords. Rain, sunshine, snow.
There have been bigger moments too, important moments, if only to me and him:
The painful death of my dreams making way for his. Bare feet on African soil for the very first time. That day in February – the day I knew, once and for all, that he is worthy of all my trust. Healing in the form of an apology I never, ever saw coming.
The more Jesus meets me in my humanity, piling my life with grace and love, the more I know deep within my soul that he must get what this is like, being human. He’s too good at walking this road with me to not understand. He’s too good at knowing what matters.
For the past month I’ve been stuck, coming back again and again to this familiar passage:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
My fully-God-only version of Jesus doesn’t fit so neatly into his assigned category when I consider the vulnerability of this passage. In this moment, the tables have turned, and all of a sudden I feel beckoned to be the comforter, to comfort him. I know I have nothing to offer, but my heart breaks and I want put my arms around him and tell him that it will all be okay, that the suffering won’t last, that it will all be worth it in the end… the same promises he’s whispered over me time and time again.
This is Jesus: fully human. I’ll never truly grasp it, I’m sure, but when I think of him in the garden – vulnerable, overwhelmed with sorrow, alone and crying out to God – I know it’s true. He was fully God, but, somehow, he was fully human too.
Jesus chose the cross so we could live in freedom. Freedom means it’s okay for me to honestly present him with all of my questions and uncertainties, knowing he’ll gently walk me through them. The same is true for you.
His whisper, full of grace, says…
I know what it’s like to feel uncertain, for I’ve walked that road before you. But if you’ll say yes when you feel like saying no, if you’ll follow me even when it seems crazy – ESPECIALLY when it seems crazy, if you can trust me just enough to take one step at a time, you’ll be surprised by the unending displays of my love.
Once he surprises you with his love, it’s impossible not to truly love him back.
PS – Here is a beautiful song called “Garden” by Needtobreathe that I’ve listened to an embarrassing amount of times this month. It’s based off of the passage I referenced above.