Everyone has their own spiritual journey.
I grew up attending church, and belief in and acknowledgement of God’s presence and existence was something that blossomed out of that experience. I’m thankful to my parents who baptized me as an infant, took me to church and VBS and sent me through confirmation as an adolescent.
Toward the end of high school I decided to accept God’s gift of forgiveness through the death of Jesus and my identity was completely shifted from someone who believed in God to someone who was redeemed by God.
After several failed attempts to actually follow Jesus in my daily life after this conversion experience, friends and ministries came alongside me to show me how this should look. Just as God honored my parents’ actions to take me to church by helping me with belief- He also honored my failed attempts at “being Christian” by providing fellowship and good teachers.
Over the last few years my journey has continued and although there have been shifts and twists and turns – what I have noticed the most is not so much a new direction so much as a new depth.
Without needing to mention that it is the work of the mysterious Holy Spirit that ultimately transforms, the single most important factor that has shaped this part of my journey has been studying the gospels.
Yes, the Gospels. Those four books at the beginning of the New Testament.
Sometimes (but of course not always) viewed by Christians as uninteresting, shallow and simple compared to the historic and prophetic books of the Old Testement and the deep, theological and practical works of the epistles and teachings of the New Testament.
The Gospels. Full of mangers, parables, teachings, miracles, dialogue and events. Played by wisemen from the east, simple-minded disciples, uptight pharisees, sinful women, Mary, Pontiuous, Judas and all those tax collectors.
Great teaching for Christmas Eve and Easter morning services and fun stories for the kids in Sunday school.
As I found myself immersed in the miraculous birth and atoning death and glorious resurrection accounted for in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and also in the rich parts in between his birth and death – I came to know a God I had never known before.
And I fell in love.
Jesus says this in the John’s gospel, chapter 14
“If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
At the culminating hour of Jesus’ time on earth with his disciples, he encourages them with the fact that through all of this, these crazy three years of traveling around with their teacher, Lord and friend – they have actually known the Father.
The Creator. The Almighty.
The invisible Guy in the Sky that I believed in and prayed to as a child became a little bit more tangible for the disciples and for me.
Suddenly The Father’s heart became glaringly obvious to me in every single one of Jesus’ words and actions.
One of my favorite passages is found in several accounts, including Luke 7.
Basically, a sinful woman (probably a prostitute) comes to Jesus’ dinner at this guys’ house and sits at his feet while he’s eating dinner. She starts bawling like the emotional female she is, then she uses her copious tears and her long hair to wipe Jesus’ stinky, dirty feet. To top it off she takes an extremely expensive jar of perfume and pours it on his feet. His host, the pharisee, is appalled of course.
Rather than confirm the Pharisees’ beliefs about this wretched unclean woman daring to touch a rabbi, Jesus is gentle with her. He forgives her. He restores her. He honors her in a position far above Simon when he says “He who has been forgiven much, loves much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little”
Now, I am not a first century prostitute, however I am an unworthy and broken woman who utterly embarrases herself with her weeping and worship at Jesus’ feet. As Jesus states these words for both the lowly woman and the exalted pharisee to hear, I have come to realize that it is actually The Father who gives these tender mercies toward an unclean, yet sorrow-filled woman.
The great heart we see in Jesus, is the same great heart of God.
I discovered that I am Jairus, pleading with Jesus to heal a child. Desperate and scared and begging and hoping for a miracle. It is the Father’s almighty power to intervene and heal as a supernatural Physician.
I discovered that I am a Pharisee, having become very good at following the Christian life but really being a rotting corpse underneath a white washed tomb. It is the Father’s patience and love toward all His Sheep that leads him to rebuke and teach the religiously self-righteous and not leave them to their own brand of sin.
I discovered that I am the woman of Samaria that Jesus meets at the well; needing a vision of something beyond herself and affirmation of who God made her to be. It is the Father’s desire to bring all sinners and all genders and all nations to himself through Christ.
I discovered that I am Martha, busy busy busy – always too busy. It is the Father who gives us a Sabbath, so that we may break from our busy work and simply sit at his feet and rest in his presence.
I discovered that I am Peter- full of elation, awe, error and sometimes disbelief at the ministry opportunities provided to me. It is the Father who, from the beginning, has called the faithful yet seemingly unqualified to do His work in this world.
I discovered that I am the paralytic -needing to be carried to Jesus by my friends. It is the Father who envisioned a life of fellowship and community.
I discovered that I am the thief on the cross, with nothing to offer Jesus, but everything to accept from Him. It is the Father who gave his only Son Jesus, that whoever believes in him shall not die, but have eternal life.
Jesus isn’t lying when he says “Knock and the door will open, seek and you will find”.
As I have knocked and sought and read and prayed and studied and followed and really immersed myself in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John I have received knowledge of and love for Jesus – and through Him, a love and deeper intimacy with the Father.
These accounts of Jesus are a door through which I know God almighty. They may make for great children’s lessons, but they also transform my life and bring newness and joy to following God.
Extreme optimism and anticipation fill my heart as I ponder where my spiritual journey will go from here. Through my dark seasons, my sin, my failures as a mother, a wife and minister God has been consistent in always pursuing me, always loving me and always growing me and as my life and life’s work continues to change and evolve I am confident that God will always be with me, even until the end of the age.
I know because He told me so in the Gospels.