Too often too many of us think Jesus is smaller than He is.
I have often written in this column about how I attended church as a child, learned quite a bit about how to do the liturgy (religious service) as an altar boy through my early teens, and then by high school drifted out of the open church doors and away from a Jesus it seems I never properly knew.
In those early years I “understood” Jesus – who I now know is the Christ, the Savior, and the Son of the living, eternal, creator God – to be contained within what I saw and heard in church. I was a child with little intellectual ignition toward imputing a bigger and proper picture of this enormous, righteous, unlimited, loving, merciful God, his servant Son and comforting Spirit. My immature mind saw only the church “package” of Jesus.
In my ignorance, Jesus looked finite, contained and limited; safely tucked into an ecclesiastical box.
That made it easy to walk away. And I did.
But let’s not knock church. The Church is the Bride of Christ, a biblical image of marriage that speaks to love, longing, patience, joy and completeness in relationship with the Bridegroom (John 3:29). But all that is easily lost on an arrogant teenager, self-absorbed young adult, and a self-sufficient “I am the master of my fate” thirty-something career professional.
No smallish “God in a box” was worth my time. Jesus seemed both a personal and cultural complication: an anchor I didn’t want, a sail I couldn’t rig. I couldn’t explain it so I didn’t want it.
Three decades after falling away, I randomly attended church one Sunday. It was Sept. 2, 2001. My elder son Eric, then entering eighth grade, had inquired about going to church. I was neither looking for nor expecting a revelation; I was just answering, in the active, fatherly affirmative, my son’s curiosity.
Yet for no reason I could understand, the Jesus I had relegated to the shadows of my intellect and emotion exploded into a bright light with which I was fascinated and a real person toward whom I was powerfully drawn. Faith suddenly made sense. I was now listening (Mark 9:7). God wound up answering questions I didn’t know I had, and teaching me lessons I would never forget.
Jesus, I realized, isn’t someone about whom one learns and moves on; Jesus is about living life in continually growing, uniquely personal and ultimately eternal relationship with God. And that it is a life-diminishing mistake to put Jesus in a box.
Walters (email@example.com) figures we shouldn’t put ourselves in a box, either. BTW, today Eric works in Dallas and is a Young Life volunteer.