This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves
to be my disciples. John 15:8

Jesus was an activity

>> Tuesday, October 2, 2007

For all of my adult life I have been a part of the same small group Bible study. It has evolved over the years as members have come and gone, moving on or moving away, but the core members have remained the same. We began as a singles group, but now most of us are married, and at last count, there are 6 children among us. Due to the ever-expanding size of our families, this group recently had to disband. This was a long time coming, as we had been struggling for months trying to figure out how to accommodate childcare for 6 without it becoming a large financial burden (we're all single income families) for any one of us. The honest truth about things is that this childcare struggle nearly ruined our friendships. It's not worth explaining all of the reasons it became so divisive, there just was never a consensus on how we could do things. So it was decided that we would meet socially on a monthly basis to maintain our friendships, but we would no longer be a weekly small group. This was a necessary, yet very sad, decision.

Mark and I, along with another couple from the original group, started a small group at our church and are embarking on a new journey, with some familiar faces, but also some new. The nervousness I felt the first night really took me by surprise. I had become so comfortable in my old group. They were family, and they were my comfort zone. To be with strangers, sharing intimate things about my life and my walk with the Lord, was stretching my boundaries. What I have learned, however, is that fresh faces and fresh insight are as tremendous a blessing a deep friendship and familiarity.

Susan is the name of one of the new friends I am making. She and her husband, Ranjeet, are joining us as we study Phil Yancey's book The Jesus I Never Knew . Our first week of study, we talked about our mind's picture of Jesus vs. the world's picture of Jesus vs. the Bible's picture of Jesus. We reflected back on our childhood and the different people and events that shaped our ideas of Jesus. We discussed the "western" Jesus you find in paintings and in Bibles, with his long, blond hair and blue eyes, and how it would have been strange for a middle-eastern Jew to look anything like that. We discussed the "warm-fuzzy" Jesus of the post-modern church and the public at large, and how, when you read the gospels, Jesus wasn't always very "nice" at all. Truly kind and truly loving, always, but "nice"? No. We all had similar influences in our lives, citing parents, pastors and friends as people who showed us who Jesus was, or wasn't, through the years.

We came to our high school years and were reflecting on our influences. We all said that we had been very active in our youth groups at church, surrounded by church-going friends and positive influences. The mystery for us all, then, was why did we all agree that we never really got to know Jesus personally until after college? Then Susan said something that hit the nail right on the head. Because in high school, Jesus was an activity. He was something we did. Not someone we knew. "Jesus" was church, Sunday school, Youth group, church camp. He was fun and friendship and a place to be. Who He was didn't much matter. When she said this, it was like a light-bulb went off in my head. Suddenly the fact that my faith was superficial for so many years made perfect sense.

This idea has stuck with me for over a week since she said it. I have begun praying that I parent in ways that ensure that for my kids, Jesus is never an activity. He was a man, and He is God. He loves us deeply and has so much He wants to teach us and bless us with. I believe in activities, because after all....even though it took awhile for me to put the relationship in my faith, my foundation had been built by all of those years in church, Sunday school, Youth group and camp. What I am building now is stronger for all of those years. I only hope to spare my kids the years in between. The years of distance from a savior who aches to know them deeply and give direction to their lives. I know that there is only so much I can do, and that ultimately they will make their own choices. But for as long as I can, I'm going to spend time introducing my boys to the love of my life: Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God.


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