Yesterday I wrote about an experience I had recently of feeling like I was being grabbed by a ponytail on the top of my head and tossed about by the whims of others. I shared that I was able to see Jesus sitting nearby, inviting me to disengage from the abuse and come join him on the brownstone steps. I said I found it interesting that he didn’t come rescue me.
Rescuing me, in the way I’ve previously experienced Jesus as my rescuer, would have looked like him coming to disengage me from the abuse himself. It would have looked like him coming out into the street, confronting the abusers, and pulling me safe into his arms and away from the scene of such pain.
It would have looked like him rescuing and defending a young girl in the way she needs to be rescued and defended.
But that’s not what happened. And what’s perhaps most surprising to me is that I was totally okay with that.
It was a picture, for me, of my growth. I noticed that when I came to sit on the brownstone steps with Jesus, I was no longer a 3-year-old girl with a ponytail but an alive and strong 32-year-old woman who could sit shoulder to shoulder with Jesus and hold an adult conversation. It was so electrifying and invigorating to notice and experience that..
And it reminded me that he comes to us exactly where we are.
We’ve been talking about this in the Look at Jesus course I’m teaching right now. We’ve been noticing how differently Jesus responds to different groups and types of people. With some people, he’s gentle and kind. With others, he’s direct and abrasive.
It can be unsettling to see the many different colors of Jesus in one huge array at once.
But we’ve come to think it shows his genius — that it has to do with his ability to know exactly what a person needs and to meet them where they are, like the most perfect teacher or parent that ever existed. Some people need gentleness and kindness. Others need greater directness and candor. And others need something totally different than either of those things.
Jesus knows the difference and gives them the exact right thing.
It reminds me of a moment several years ago when I really got at least part of the miracle of Paul’s teaching in Philippians 2:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.
— Philippians 2:5-7
Now, there are many things to learn of God and Christ inside these words. But one thing these words teach us is the nature of Christ’s love. It’s a love that comes to us where we are.
When I needed Jesus to rescue me in times past, he rescued me. When I needed him to hold me in his arms to comfort and soothe me, he did just that. And when I needed him to remind me of my strength, my volition, and my own dignity, like he did in the ponytail incident more recently, that’s what he did.
He comes to us where we are. And where we are and what we need changes over time as we grow. This, too, is what spiritual formation is about. It’s about growing into the whole and complete person we are meant to be in God’s sight, and that changes over time as we grow into it.
How do you need Jesus to meet you right where you are right now? What does his coming to where you are look like in this particular time and place of your life and growth?