Sunday, February 26, 2006

Trying To Be Like Jesus

When I was eleven years old I became a Christian. It was wonderful, it was real.

It's funny how only in looking back can you understand what was happening to you at the time. And when I stare behind me and see those years after 11, I remember an increasing frustration and sense of guilt instead of increasing joy and peace like the Bible promised.

Why? Basically, it was because I tried to be like Jesus. I ... I.... I tried to be like God. But that wasn't my job and for years and years the frustration grew because I was in the wrong job. I plopped myself into an impossible career, one no person on Earth can handle, though I tried for the next 25 years.

I'd go to church every Sunday and was preached at that I should tell people about Jesus ("tell, tell,tell..that's the main thing") and I thought that meant telling strangers about the Jesus in the Bible. And my guilt grew like trees because talking to strangers scared me to tiny pieces.

I was told to 'be ye perfect' and I tried so hard and scribbled tons of plans and read stacks of books and tried and tried to be perfect. But I never even came close. And guilt grew taller and a sense of failure, too, as well as the need to wear a mask to hide all this mess. To appear as something I should be, but wasn't.

I could go on and on, but I probably don't have to. Probably many of you know exactly what I mean and it would be like watching your own version of "This Is Your Life."

Finally, God gave me a break. You could even say He put me out of my misery. He got my attention one night 12 years ago... and there was so much love... He knew I needed love after all the years of mental abuse and stress I'd given myself. But that night, the room was alive with love and acceptance--from Him. And that is when it's best--when the love comes straight to your heart from God's very heart, bypassing other people, places or things first. At least, that is what I've found.

He told me we were starting over because I'd run this whole thing into a bottomless, dark ditch. I'd taken the reigns from Him many years prior and I'd gotten lost somewhere out in the Fog Of Doing It All Myself and then wandered farther out into the even scarier, Land of Being Led By Your Feelings. Frightening places, both.

How good it was to start over. How good it was to take baby steps again with my tiny hand curled around His fingers. God was there to pull me back up and remind me that it's up to Him to keep me walking. My job is to cooperate. To learn. He loved me through it every mile of the way, never tossed me aside in my failures. Not once. There has been no dark night of the soul, no feeling alone for even a minute... perhaps I had already lived that dark night in my years of trying to be like God by following my own outlined, organized plans and feelings.

Oh, there are hard times, yes... It is never easy to die. Over and over I've had to die to much of what I had wildly insisted was true all my life. I've had to face the ugly, mishapen quasi-Christian creature I had formed myself and oh, how shocking to see that in His light! But how good of Him to stand beside me while I face it.

And whenever I fall or fall apart, God is there to pull me up and remind me that it's up to Him to keep me walking. It's up to me to simply cooperate with whatever He tells me. And He loves me through it all.

But over and over, even in the pain of dying I see something:
the more I die,
the more I listen to God and not myself,
the more I let go of the errors I learned in the past--of every sin I've sinned,
the more I forgive myself and concentrate not on my failings, but on God's perfection and His acceptance of me...

...the more the joy grows... and the daily, sweet peace, too.

But only as I realize my job is to die. God's job is to live inside and overflow outside of me. There was no way I could have ever, ever become like God on my own. Only God can be God in me. Only God can pour Himself out of me.

And finally the little girl who was once 11 and terrified of telling others about Jesus, well, she can just laugh about that because how hard is it to tell others about the best friend you ever had?

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