When I was a little boy many years ago, my mom would occasionally take my brothers and me to see her beloved Aunt Irene. For little boys, Aunt Irene was more than a great-aunt; she was a memorable experience!
My Aunt Irene had a high-pitched, scratchy voice. Her gray-turning-white hair was always well coiffed. Most memorable to me as a little boy, this beloved aunt caked her face with powder. This powder would make your nose itch if you got too close. Every hug left a powder mark of her face on your clothes. She always wore bright lipstick with bright red rouge on her cheeks. She always wore high heels, but in her older years, they were what we called the old lady version of high heels — shorter and thicker heels with a big strap over her ankle.
This special aunt lived in a beautiful old house in a very nice part of a fashionable Houston suburb. The house smelled a little stuffy despite being immaculately clean. This odor was probably due to the seldom-used upstairs bedrooms. The cabinets, the furniture, the drapes, the plumbing fixtures, the doorknobs, and even the locks screamed old yet once quite nice.
As boys, we were always too noisy for older people. However, we learned at Aunt Irene's house that silence bought us time for exploration of the old and wonderfully strange house. This exploring was especially true of the upstairs. Several of the rooms had their doors shut. (The doors probably were shut to ease the expense of cooling and dehumidifying the big old house in the hot and muggy Houston summers.) We would, however, pretend that behind those doors were all sorts of mysteries and dark secrets.
Walking as quietly down the hall as we possibly could, the old wood floors would often creak under the carpet. This creaking was even truer when we approached a closed door. Little-by-little, we would muster the courage to peer through one of those old style keyholes that used a skeleton key. The fact that they required a skeleton key made the keyholes spookier and even more mysterious. The closer we got to the keyhole, the more we could see what was on the other side of the door.
Sooner or later, one of us moved our eye closer and closer to the keyhole. The closer we got, the more we could see inside the darkened room. Then, one of our brothers or cousins would push the back of the head of the brave one peeking through the keyhole. The door went thud and rattle as the forehead smacked the door knob. The old door would rattle, the floors would creak, and all of us little boys would run down the stairs whooping and hollering with a mixture of terror and delight. We would get scolded for making too much noise. All of this, of course, left the darkened rooms upstairs even more mysterious and alluring, which guaranteed we would do it all over again on the next visit.
Recently, I was doing my daily Bible reading through the Gospel of John. I try to read on average, one chapter per day from one of the Gospels. As I was reading, Jesus said these words:
If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him (John 14:7).John emphasizes that Jesus was God in human flesh. He wanted us to know that Jesus was God with us and that Jesus on earth was making known and doing the will of the Father. Yet for some reason — I trust it was the leading of the Holy Spirit — the image of peering through the keyhole at Aunt Irene's came back to me as I thought about this truth.
At that moment, I understood Jesus as the keyhole through whom I look and see God. The closer I get to Jesus — just like with the keyhole — the clearer and greater detail of God's truth I can see, understand, and share with others.
This insight challenged me to draw closer to Jesus. I can only know God more fully by knowing Jesus more intimately. I felt called to spend more focused time in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) so that I can know what Jesus said and did when he was on earth. Most of all, it dared me to be a disciple — one whom when fully trained becomes fashioned to be like his or her teacher (Luke 6:40).
Of course, my memories of Aunt Irene's house with her keyholes, creaky hallways, and locked rooms on the second floor challenged me even more. I reminded myself that I often allow my fear of the unknown to keep me from really delving into the story of Jesus. I find myself easily distracted, never really getting to know him and not just know a little about him. In addition, I realized that I've sometimes allowed the disapproval and interference of those I know who don't share my passion for Jesus to steal me away from my pursuit of the Savior.
As I look around today, I notice a lot of Aunt Irene keyhole Christians. They do a lot of talking about Jesus — what he had to say or what he didn't have to say. They play at knowing what is on the other side of the door but refuse to take the risk and draw close enough to the keyhole to really see what is on the other side of the door. They talk about what they think Jesus said or did, but they don't really know the Jesus of the gospels. Their Jesus is a Savior of their own making — a Jesus made up of hearsay, rumor, suspicion, legend, and personal choice. They only get close enough to the keyhole to recognize the room on the other side is mysterious. They let the opinions and interference of friends keep them from moving close enough to the keyhole to really look inside and see what is really there.
I will warn you. Religious people and political people crucified Jesus because he said and did radical stuff. So be careful when you start quoting some of his stuff. Before long, you will need to start living all of his truth. He promised that this would bring you life (John 10:10). However, be warned: Jesus will also challenge you to change you opinions, your positions on key issues, re-arrange your lifestyle, alter the way you treat people, and re-wire your values. To look through this keyhole is dangerous. Far more dangerous than little boys playing in an old house, peering in this keyhole of Jesus is inviting God to take control of your heart, your life, and your choices.
I hope you will dare to spend the next year reading each gospel through, one chapter at a time. Do this until you have read all four gospels through four times. Before you read, simply pray, "Father in heaven, I ask that the Holy Spirit help me recognize today what Jesus wants me to know about what I read, how Jesus wants me to feel about what I read today, and what Jesus wants me to do today because of what I've read. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen."
Or, like we did at Aunt Irene's house, you could just keep playing little kids games instead of knowing Jesus. Of course, it feels safer to play games with Jesus than it is to let him start messing with your life. Folks, both unbelieving and church folks, won't think you are weird because you are willing to play the Jesus game like they do. You can use him as a good luck charm and quote him when you think he supports your opinion. This play Jesus never requires you to change anything. This way of approaching Jesus allows us to keep him at a safe distance from your own darkened rooms and the mysteriously hidden and shadowy corners of your character. But then the life you live will never approach the true life he promised. Your life will never thrill to the risky significance of a life that matters beyond the musty smell of old superstitions and sweet things said at dead relatives' funerals.
The invitation is still open. Jesus invites you to "Come and see"! Find out for yourself who Jesus is. Find out the life the Lord longs to fashion in you. Or do you not have the courage to take a look through the keyhole of Jesus' grace? Come on and take the one year with Jesus dare?
Aunt Irene and her old musty-smelling house with the creaky hallways are just a memory. Jesus longs for us to step into his world and change history — our own history and the history of all those that our lives will touch.