A couple weeks ago, I noticed that my relationship with Jesus felt strained. Different. Distant.
Part of this had to do with the ongoing struggle he and I faced concerning my heavy heart for the darkness in this world. The pain in my heart at the suffering and fallenness of it created quite a barrier that we struggled through for about a month.
But even after we started to work that through, my time spent with Jesus each morning was not the same. Reading scripture was a strain. Prayer was hard-won. Determining what to write on Still Forming each day was a struggle.
And the really telling thing was that the Gospels were the last place I wanted to go in my scripture reading time. That's pretty unusual for me, given that I love reading the Gospels so much that I've created a course that invites others to read them, too. But even more than that, my resistance to reading the Gospels seemed rooted in a resistance to even spend time with Jesus.
But then in my session with Elaine last week, when I noticed the clouds up ahead and the way I start my pretzel-making in response, I noticed a really big reason why the distance was still there.
One reason was because I'd become more concerned about the potential response of others to me than about what Jesus is calling me to do. I was worried about things like, What if they don't like it? What if they want it to be different? What if they want me to change it? Or what if they simply can't afford it?
Cue the pretzel-making.
And second, I was able to voice out loud in that session that I'd begun feeling really self-conscious about my relationship with Jesus.
I talk about him all the time on Still Forming -- which wasn't at all what I expected to have happen when I first began the week-daily reflections in that space last May. What if they are sick of the Jesus-talk? What if they're annoyed by my relationship with him? What if they can't relate at all to the Jesus I have come to know?
But even more than that, I have felt so aware of the closeness of what he and I share and the way I've come to learn the ways that we relate. Sure, he may change the way he relates to me in the future, but for now it is the case that he walks and talks with me in vivid images. He has taught me the sound of his voice. He lets me see him. We have a relationship that feels as real as any relationship I have on earth. It is that textured and palpable.
I've felt self-conscious of that lately. Almost apologetic. Sorry. Embarrassed. If others don't experience Jesus that way, then I should downplay that I do, goes the reasoning.
And so I started to stuff him down. Push him away. Deny the reality of what we share.
That really doesn't do anyone any good. Not me. Not Jesus. Not others.
Not to mention that's a really familiar strain of my younger years: deny the full light of who I am so that others won't feel bad.
Here is the truth I have come to know: Jesus has given me a deep and textured and palpable relationship with himself, and he uses the intense vibrancy of that relationship to communicate to me what he would have me communicate to others about himself.
In other words, one reason Jesus has given me the relationship we share is so that I can clearly see and hear what he wants to say to others through me.
That's not something to apologize for, I see now. It's something to be incredibly grateful for. It's something to keep leaning into and receiving with gladness.
There came a point pretty early on in writing the week-daily posts on Still Forming that I realized the need to lean in close to Jesus and listen to what he wanted to say in that space each day. I really did feel that I was subsisting each day upon the words of Jesus. My mornings became important times of prayer and reading the scriptures and listening to Jesus as a result, and it was the reason I decided to keep my mornings free of appointments at the start of this new year in order to be completely free for the time required to spend with him each day.
In order to know what Jesus wants to say through one of the primary places I exercise my vocation, I have to stay close to him.
Also, for some reason still inexplicable to me, I've been carrying around a sense of a priestly calling for about a year now. It started with the image of the communion cup that emerged last February. There's been this continued sense that my calling is to present Christ to others -- in the same way a priest presents the body and blood of Christ to others in eucharist.
Present Christ. That is what I am made to do. In an incredible story that began with a very tiny prayer for God to help me understand my need for Jesus, he has blossomed that relationship into something so precious to me that I don't have enough words or time in the world to express the fullness of it.
All so that he would make me into someone who presents Christ to others.
Stay close and present Christ. That is what I'm to do. And so I will, with a prayer that Jesus will help me stay faithful to him.