When I was a little girl, like most kids, I had an invisible friend. We played on the swings together, had tea parties, went on adventures. He was my constant companion and I can remember talking to him each night before bed, going over the happenings of the day. He knew who hurt my feelings, why I earned a gold star at school and which seven year old boy I had a crush on. He listened, he contributed to the conversation, he was awesome, y’all.
He was invisible but not imaginary- his name was Jesus.
I know that the above might sound like the makings of a cheesy religious tract, but it’s a true story. Jesus was my best friend and as a kid, I felt His presence so strongly that it was as if I could touch Him. He was my Jesus and I knew, without a doubt, that He loved me more than anyone else loved me. I was happy.
Let’s fast forward about 20 years. As much as I wish I could tell you that I still experienced the same level of closeness with Jesus as I did before.. I can’t. I still believed that God existed, that Jesus died for my sins, that He loved us deeply, that life without Him felt empty. I believed because I knew it was true- I had felt it, seen it, experienced it….but it had been awhile. In fact, up until recently, I often felt like I was standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon shouting my prayers out, knowing that God was there and believing that He heard me, but completely overwhelmed by the distance I felt between us. Cringing at the hollow echo of my own voice. It was a far cry from childhood nights spent whispering with Jesus.
I know that I’m not alone in this. This is a story shared by so many of us. So, how did we get here? what happened?
Life happened. Hurt happened. It got complicated, y’all.
20 years brought a lot of life experiences and with those experiences came questions. Ah, the questions. I put (what felt like) a Grand Canyon between Jesus and myself… and I paved the entire thing with my questions. I collected them and held on to them over the years- they became my constant companions. I didn’t have the answers, so they just stayed with me, open ended and looming in the background. I created a condition for my closeness with God… in order for me to let Him in again, I needed someone to answer all of my questions. At first, I found myself seeking answers from the church, religion, anyone who would listen. But I was operating as a free agent.. holding off on “re-signing my contract” until I had my questions answered. The end result was was frustration, disappointment and more freaking questions, y’all.
Eventually, I just stopped asking. In addition to the Grand Canyon, I created a Mt. Everest with those questions. Casually throwing them on the pile as they would come up, going on with my life, trying make it on my own.
I was holding it all up and together…until I wasn’t anymore. Until it all came crashing down around me.
That’s where I found myself months ago. Broken and battered at base of my Mt. Everest of questions. Desperate for my Jesus and certain that I could not live without Him. Overwhelmed by how far away I felt, by the sheer magnitude of the mountain in front of me. So, I did what I do best.. I asked one more question:
I can’t live without you… where do I even begin?
You begin with love.
I heard him, y’all! through that still small voice, my Jesus answered and I am so thankful that He did. I was exhausted and weary from the path I had traveled- I needed direction in the form of one small step. From that point forward, I focused on learning about His love for me and strengthening my love for Him. I went back to the basics, I started reading the Jesus Storybook Bible to my little girl at night, allowed myself to become a child again and for a little while, put away my questions to focus on the one thing I knew to be true: I was deeply loved by the creator of the universe. I rested in that fact and eventually, I blossomed in it.
You see, it’s ok that we have questions. We are meant to wrestle with our faith! it’s what makes our relationship authentic and keeps us growing. I’m not advocating for us to ignore the things that we can’t reconcile- just to tackle those things with the strength of God’s love.
For me, it was questions fueled by hurt. For others, it could be guilt, anger, doubt, addiction, affliction… the possibilities are endless but the bottom line is the same. Whatever is paving your Grand Canyon and whatever your Mt. Everest is made of- just rest. If you still believe, deep down, that you are loved by God, rest there. Start with that, focus on the basics. Regain your strength before you start climbing- because we weren’t meant to do this alone….
…and if we’re going to climb Mt. Everest and leap the Grand Canyon, why not do it with the One who created them both?