As Easter approaches my mind takes me back to the Holy Land. When I stood on the Mount of Olives in September of 2016 I was overcome as I imagined Jesus right there. On his way for me. On his way to his death, he was here. For me. For you, too. I felt close to him as I walked down the Mount of Olives. I remembered his love for me which compelled him to keep going. Flooded with emotion I took each step deliberately soaking up every minute. My eyes absorbed all they could, the bright blue sky, the trees with thorns, like the ones used to make his “crown,” the warmth of the sun, the view of the old city of Jerusalem. I imagined Jesus’ thoughts and steps. Scenes from the gospels flashed on the screen of my mind.
I didn’t always have this intimate connection with Jesus but ever since I was a little girl I did believe in God. I can’t explain why. I just did. God was real to me. I feel like I have always believed in God’s existence.
As I have gotten older I have experienced strong doubt from time to time about the whole thing, really. I have wondered, “What if there is nothing after I die? What if it is nothing? What if once I die, I am gone forever? Then, this is it. Nothing more.” Doubt can be an unsettling, scary thing.
But I always come back to belief. My faith persists not because I can prove every bit of it. It does not persist because it is an academic pursuit for me. It does not persist because I can see with my eyes God’s physical form. My faith persists because Jesus’ love and suffering persuade me.
It persists through my doubt and suffering and questions because I have experienced relationship with a God who loves me and suffered for me. First I believed because of an internal, irresistible draw. Then I came to believe the facts and the doctrine about Christianity, the Church and Jesus, even though I didn’t understand it all. But further down my faith journey, Jesus became alive to me. Jesus was no longer a fact, Jesus became the love of my life, the one who came for the world and for me-for me, exactly as I was, mess and all.
One of the catalysts was reading and meditating on the Bible. Particularly, it was a slow reading of the book of John along with conversations with a small group of women. We spent about a year doing it. Jesus lit up the pages of my Bible that year. God becomes visible on earth through Jesus.
At the beginning of this process, Jesus’ words struck me. I will not forget. Jesus asked two people who were following him,
“What do you want?”
Jesus’ question transcended that historical moment and cut straight to my heart in 2004. It was as if Jesus was asking me,
“What do you want, Jen?”
Really, Jesus, you want to know what I want?
Weird, I always thought I was the only one to ask questions. God, Jesus, God in the form of a man, wants to know what I want. I couldn’t get over it.
Then the two asked Jesus where he was staying and Jesus said to them,
“Come and you will see.”
Again, straight to my heart,
“Come and see, Jen. Come and see. You are welcome on this journey to discover me. I want you to get to know me, personally, intimately. You. Yes, you.”
This God asks questions and gives invitations. I was invited. Not to religion. Not to a strict set of rules. Not to a standard I had already blown. But to him, to Jesus himself. This began a revival awakening everything within me. And this is the spark I need everyday if I am to live awake and in faith. What are his questions for me today? What is his invitation right now?
After years of questions and invitations from Jesus, I walked down the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where he walked, wrestled, and cried. This was the way to the cross which makes it possible for such closeness. I couldn’t get over it. I still am not over it. May I never get over his questions, his invitations, and his steps of descent to his death. Remembering what fueled his obedience persuades me ever still.
“When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. John 1:36-39