I believe that there are people all around us that feel the way this mom does. They are searching for a relationship with Jesus. They want to come back home, but when they walk into a church building, they are put off by all the barriers. They have to learn all the rules. They need to know the traditions. They really should get working in some of the church programs. They're asked to go to pot luck luncheons to meet folks. They are signed up for committees to help minister to outsiders. They are nudged to be involved in ... and the list goes on.
But the truth is, they can't find Jesus! And without Jesus, they can't find their way home to God. So where does all their searching often lead them? To a group of good people, doing good things, and trying to help each other along. But they can't seem to find Jesus.
In that situation, Jesus gets lost in all the details. Of course He is in the heart of His believers, but the seekers from the outside can't seem to find Him there. I know I could not find Jesus in someone else's actions. I did not find Him from the words spoken from the pulpit, as inspirational as they can be. I could not find a personal relationship with my Savior through anyone else. I had to seek Him ... not the stuff that claimed to be about Him. And I found that He was waiting for me all along. He was right by my side through the ugly and not so ugly.
I decided I wanted God; but not knowing where to find Him, I started looking for Him in all those churchy places. I sang worship songs, but the words felt empty. After all, I wasn't going to submit my life to anyone. I was in charge of me. I took communion to remember the crucifixion and resurrection, but Jesus had died a long time ago. The current sin I was in really didn't seem to matter in my mind — after all, how does someone have fun if they don't party? For some strange reason, I never found the connection between God's call to my heart and the call to change my behavior. I only opened my eyes to the shiny surface of my life, but it was completely empty below the shiny surface.
But there came a point in my journey when I realized that God would not settle for only a part of my life. He wanted more than two hours of my time on Sunday morning. I had been taught about pride, rights, looking out for number one, and pulling myself up by my own boot straps. I really lived each of these, but my heart ached. So when did my heart really connect to Jesus? It was only when I realized that I was not the god of my own life. It was only when I realized that finding Jesus was not going to be on my terms, but His.
That connection happened on the floor of my bedroom, down on my knees, pleading for God to be my God. It began with me asking Him to help me find Him. I would seek Him every day of my life. I would read His Word. I would try to live a life that glorified Him and not me. And only then, when I gave Him all of me, did my heart meet His.
A year later, I went back home to Arizona because a friend of mine was getting married. I was staying at a friend's home. One of my friend's roommates questioned me about my new found Christianity. Their biggest problems with Christianity were the rules. There were so many of them, following them seemed impossible. Why even try?
As a relatively new Christian at the time, I didn't have the best answer. But, I think I responded that it just felt right when nothing else did. I told them that the rules they were talking about also left me empty. If I were to try to follow a dot-to-dot, color-by-numbers Christianity, I'd be in a place a lot like my life before: far away from God. But with Jesus as the focus, there is nothing to earn; His grace fills in when I fall short. He brings me into the presence of God.
God tells us in Scripture to seek Him with all of our heart and we will find Him. And I did! But only when I realized that He would not settle for my leftovers; he wanted all of me. Just as my husband won't settle for my leftovers, God wants my whole heart.
I feel blessed that I have a relationship with Jesus, but the seeking never ends. He calls me to pursue Him every day. When I do, I have the peace of heart that I could never have even imagined twenty years ago. The story above is from when I was in my early twenties, now I am knocking on the door of my forties. However, those moments long ago are still vivid in my memory today.
God never stops calling us. He calls to us whether we just communed with Him, or if he was a long lost friend with whom we haven't spoken in years. So open your ears and hear him calling. Lift your eyes and behold His glory. He longs to have you close and have your life changed because you have been changed by being in His presence.