I have been a Christian for some time now and I am struggling. Struggling with the whole idea of how God wants to change us… to change me. How He wants me to grow and become more like him. To be transformed and made new. I mean, what does that look like? How does that happen? What part do I play in that? What part does God play? So many questions. When I think about what my church experience taught me about growth I think it can be boiled down to two different things. Either 1-Try Harder or 2-Call on Magic Jesus. Since trying harder involves effort and work and lots of frustration, let’s talk about Magic Jesus (I will write about Trying Harder in another Post).
If you have been a Christian for any amount of time the concept of “Magic Jesus” will be easy to grasp. It is this mystical Jesus who will makes everything new and wonderful when you become a believer. Does anger get the best of you more than you like? Wah-La! Magic Jesus will take it away. Have a drinking problem? Presto! Magic Jesus takes away your desire to drink. Depressed? Shazam! Magic Jesus will make you happy. Can’t seem to be responsible with money? No worries! Magic Jesus will give you self control (or maybe He will “provide” money from heaven so you can keep spending). You don’t have to be around it very long to realize it is total bullshit. That it doesn’t work, no matter how hard you try (believe me, I tried REALLY hard to get magic Jesus to take away my anxiety and OCD but he never did). What is so damaging about Magic Jesus is that you feel like there is something wrong with you when he doesn’t show up. I mean, he seems to show up for all these other people right? Why won’t he show up for me?I have a very clear memory of a Sunday morning nearly 20 years ago. During our church service, a young man was allowed to stand up and share a story with the congregation. He told us all about how the night before, he and his friend had been praying. Apparently, his friend had a great deal of emotional pain from her past that she was experiencing. As they prayed, God just took it all away. All the pain. All the struggle. Gone. And she was now a healed woman. Wah-la! Magic Jesus strikes again. I remember thinking two things that day. I wondered what I was doing wrong and then I wondered how she was going to feel when all the emotional pain came back and hit her like a truck.
Now, I know that Jesus can do miraculous things. I do. I know he could take away and heal anything he wanted too. I just don’t think it is the norm, more like the exception. I don’t think Jesus came to just make life smooth and easy. I think he came to save us and set us free… from ourselves. I think he came to show us unconditional love and complete acceptance. To show us forgiveness and mercy in a way we could have never thought possible. I think He came so we no longer have to run and hide. I think He came so we could face our shit. I am beginning to think that growth actually comes from dealing with pain and difficulty. At least that has been my experience as of late. This is where real growth and transformation can happen.
There is something amazing that happens when I allow myself to look deeply at who I am. The good stuff, the bad stuff. The beautiful, and the ugly stuff. When I begin to realize that I am deeply loved and accepted, just as I am. That Jesus already knows all of this about me and is only opening my eyes to it. It makes me understand Him in a whole new way. And change can happen...in the core of my being. Because I am no longer trying get God’s acceptance and love. I already have it. It is complete and lacking nothing. So, I can face whatever I find lurking inside of me. Those things that hide in the dark recesses of me that I am afraid to have exposed because who could love me then? The stuff that I bury down deep because it hurts too much to feel. Yeah, all of that… I can face it now.
I don’t get all that with Magic Jesus though. I may get a quick fix but in the end I am alone. That makes Magic Jesus kind of a cheap Jesus to me. Kind of shallow and empty. Even though it is harder, I think I would rather have the Jesus that is willing walk through my shit with me and bring me to the other side… a little more changed, a little more whole.