When I was in my twenties, God the Father went from being a two-dimensional character on wispy thin pages to a fully alive, very real and amazingly involved and loving Father. I experienced Him in deeply personal ways, and I learned at least the beginnings of what it means to rest in being His child. Somehow through all of this, Jesus remained a bit of a mystery. Well, not somehow. I can tell you how, but that’s another story for another day.
In February of this year, I went to a conference in Houston hosted by Beth Moore for women in their twenties and thirties who are called to teach, speak or write. That I ended up there made no sense to me; how I ended up there showed it made perfect sense to God. Even if I did want to run straight out of that hotel ballroom in a wild panic about fifty times before we were even a full sixty minutes into the conference.
My sweet friend Melanie went with me, and we had the best and deepest talks throughout the weekend. After a Saturday full of listening, absorbing, worshipping, crying our eyes out and furiously scribbling notes, I felt comfortable enough to tell her how I felt about Jesus: that my experience of Him felt impersonal, somewhat removed; that I felt my primary line of communication was with the Father. It’s a very difficult thing to describe, so I don’t often try. But Melanie gets me and/or is gracious enough to hide it when she does not. Before we fell asleep that night, our heads still spinning from the day, I said I thought I would begin a deeper study of John when I got home. My pastor Craig has always said that’s a good place to go when you want to know Jesus.
Just a few days before I left for Houston, my dear friend Sarabeth asked me to write a series of daily email devotionals for our church during the Lent season. When I returned from LIT, I began to discuss ideas for that series with Sarabeth, and she suggested I focus on John. Surprise, surprise. I undertook the assignment with eager anticipation, and I thoroughly enjoyed every last minute of it. I felt more alive than I have felt in years – like a wild, rushing river was roaring in my chest. I loved digging into the text, imagining the stories as if I had witnessed them firsthand, geeking out on word studies and communicating what I had learned each week. I was loathe to see it end – I even asked if they would let me write a bonus week and I may have cried real tears when I hit ‘send’ on the final installment – but I intentionally refused to ask God to show me my next assignment when I finished. Since January, God has been graciously – if not relentlessly – showing me all the ways I just love “controlling” my life. (Those quotation marks there are 100% intentional.) So when I finished the Lent writings, I felt the need to just sit with what I had learned for a bit, to rest from several weeks of hard but rewarding labor and enjoy the afterglow without jumping right into the Next Big Thing.
Isn’t it funny how even our not-planned plans so often go awry?
Not long after the last Lent email landed in everyone’s inboxes, I was given a copy of Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge, a book specifically about exploring the personality of Jesus. Weary though I was from the weeks of writing and studying, I longed to read back through the passages in John and what I had written, to spend some time sitting with the stories as an observer and see what undiscovered treasures I might yet find. I figured I would dig into Eldredge as well. Then life happened. I got busy, and I didn’t take time to sit with those stories, or any stories for that matter. I allowed myself to get overwhelmed, allowed my voice to be stifled, and I watched in resignation as the rushing river in my chest slowly stilled and dried up, leaving behind dry, cracked, thirsty earth.
Over the last several weeks, I have felt my thirst to the point of great pain, and I began to intently ask: what does it mean to drink the Living Water? What does it take for that water to well up inside me? I waited for answers. They didn’t come at first. See, I was looking for a to do list (really, when am I going to stop with that?). I was just like the people I continually marveled at in studying John – the people clamoring for the gift and not the Giver. I was asking how to drink the Living Water and growing frustrated with the lack of response. Yet standing before me all along has been the actual Living Water: Jesus, just waiting for me to drop my guard and admit the obvious. It’s noon. I am at the well. Alone. Unseen. And I am ever so thirsty.
If there is one thing I do not lack at the moment, it is reading material. I have at least one dozen unread books silently accusing me from various places in my bedroom. That having been said, I just flat cannot abide reading anything at all about myself and my future and my five year plan right this second, but it’s also not exactly the time for Tozer or Lewis. Eldredge’s book about Jesus kept catching my eye, though. In the spirit of vulnerability, I will own that I have been afraid to read this book. What if I didn’t get it? What if I read it cover to cover and somehow fail to know Jesus more intimately? Something about standing in the blazing hot sun, parched and weary and desperate for Jesus has managed to strip me of those particular inhibitions, so I cracked it open and began to read. I’m mere chapters in and it’s already blowing my mind in the best and hardest ways. I’m also walking back through my Lent writings – this time less as an eager writer, more as a thirsty reader. Along the way I hope to share a handful of my thoughts on all of the above in this space, for two reasons:
1. I am an external processor and I love Jesus.
2. If I keep texting my long-form thoughts to my mentor after every new revelation, he may end up blocking my number. And I really need him not to do that.
For now, I ever so briefly revisit the beginning, when two of John the Baptist’s followers were trailing Jesus and He turned to ask them what they wanted.
“They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’), ‘where are you staying?’
‘Come,’ He replied, ‘and you will see.’” (John 1:38b-39, NIV)
Come, He tells me. Come and you will see.
But Jesus, I need the address. Can you write down the directions? Maybe draw me a map?
No, child. Come. Walk with me. Release your need to know. Take hold of my hand instead.
Come and you will see.