All great characters in stories are the ones who give their lives to something bigger than themselves.
by Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
A guy I know named Alan went around the country asking ministry leaders questions. He went to successful churches and asked the pastors what they were doing, why what they were doing was working. It sounded very boring except for one visit he made to a man named Bill Bright, the president of a big ministry. Alan said he was a big man, full of life, who listened without shifting his eyes. Alan asked a few questions. I don’t know what they were, but as a final question he asked Dr. Bright what Jesus meant to him. Alan said Dr. Bright could not answer the question. He said Dr. Bright just started to cry. He sat there in his big chair behind his big desk and wept.
When Alan told that story I wondered what it was like to love Jesus that way. I wondered, quite honestly, if that Bill Bright guy was just nuts or if he really knew Jesus in a personal way, so well that he would cry at the very mention of His name. I knew then that I would like to know Jesus like that, with my heart, not just my head. I felt like that would be the key to something.
I remember the first time I had feelings for Jesus. It wasn’t very long ago. I had gone to a conference on the coast with some Reed students, and a man spoke who was a professor at a local Bible college. He spoke mostly about the Bible, about how we should read the Bible. He was convincing. He seemed to have an emotional relationship with the Book, the way I think about Catcher in the Rye. This man who was speaking reads through the Bible three times each year. I had never read through the Bible at all. I had read a lot of it but not all of it, and mostly I read it because I felt that I had to; it was healthy or something.
The speaker guy asked us to go outside and find a quiet place and get reacquainted with the Book, hold it in our hands and let our eyes feel down the pages. I went out on the steps outside the rest room and opened my Bible to the book of James.
Years ago I had a crush on a girl, and I prayed about it and that night read through James, and because it is a book about faith and belief I felt like God was saying that if I had faith she would marry me. So I was very excited about this and lost a lot of weight, but the girl gave her virginity to a jerk from our youth group, and they are married now. I didn’t care, honestly. I didn’t love her that much. I only say that because the book of James, in my Bible, is highlighted in ten colors and underlined all over the place, and it looks blood raw, and the yellow pages remind me of a day when I believed so faithfully in God, so beautifully in God. I read a little, maybe a few pages, then shut the Book, very tired and confused.
But when we got back from the conference, I felt like my Bible was calling me. I felt this promise that if I read it, if I just read it like a book, cover to cover, it wouldn’t change me into an idiot, it wouldn’t change me into a clone of Pat Buchanan, and that was honestly the thing I was worried about with the Bible. If I read it, it would make me simple in my thinking. So I started in Matthew, which is one of the Gospels about Jesus. And I read through Matthew and Mark, then Luke and John. I read those books in a week or so, and Jesus was very confusing, and I didn’t know if I liked Him very much, and I was certainly tired of Him by the second day. By the time I got to the end of Luke, to the part where they were going to kill Him again, where they were going to stretch Him out on a cross, something shifted within me. I remember it was cold outside, crisp, and the leaves in the trees of the park across the street were getting tired and dry. And I remember sitting at my desk, and I don’t know what it was that I read or what Jesus was doing in the book, but I felt a love for Him rush through me, through my back and into my chest. I started crying, too, like that guy Bill Bright.
I remember thinking that I would follow Jesus anywhere, that it didn’t matter what He asked me to do. He could be mean to me; it didn’t matter, I loved Him, and I was going to follow Him.
I think the most important thing that happens within Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus.
If you haven’t done it in a while, pray and talk to Jesus. Ask Him to become real to you. Ask Him to forgive you of self-addiction, ask Him to put a song in your heart. I can’t think of anything better that could happen to you than this.
Great characters give their lives to something bigger
Excerpted with permission from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, copyright Thomas Nelson.
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Have you experienced that feeling of falling in love with Jesus or remember meeting Him for the first time?
Bring me to a place of fresh encounter with you. I want to know you more and step into the fullness of your love. Nothing satisfy my soul like you. I know you delight in loving me. I too want to experience delight in being loved by You and loving you and others in return.
In Jesus Name,