By Leah Clouse
There’s a book called Generous Orthodoxy that delves into the many versions of Jesus we experience as we grow. Our understanding of Jesus changes over time and through different seasons of our lives we come to rely on Jesus one-dimensionally. I’ve known band-aid Jesus, Kool-aid Jesus, Uncle Rick Jesus, get-me-outta-here Jesus, silent Jesus, and a Jesus named Paul all of which were essential to getting to the next. They’ve layered themselves atop one another like patchwork. Through these narrow understandings of Jesus I’ve come to know him and myself more intimately.
Lately though, I’ve been thinking a lot instead about the “me’s” that God has known. I often wonder what God thinks of the many “me’s” I’ve gone through. Are there any He misses? I certainly miss a few. Was He equally pleased with each one? Was He waiting with bated breath for the next epiphany that would send me careening into a new journey, a new perspective, a new “me”?
I’ve changed a lot in the last year. Comparatively to years past, I’d dare to say I’ve changed the most, in fact. Paul and I used to joke about Chinese sweat shops. Not with any real malice, but we’d pacify ourselves as we perused the aisles of Wal-Mart with jokes about how it was good for them to learn some discipline, how they’d be bored at home anyway since they didn’t have video games, etc. Written out like that, it sounds a lot crueler than we meant it. Dark humor and all. My how things have changed. Our hearts are more tender now. We SEE with real eyes and aching hearts. Other things have changed too. We see the value of locally grown and locally made. I understand what it means to be a local business and my hat is off.
Then there’s Jesus. Lucky guy never changes. He’s the guy I readily admit to not fully buying into. I know, I know, “that’s the whole point”, yada yada. But seriously, I have my questions and I have my doubts. Jesus is my linchpin and my paradox. He’s the part I get the least and cling to the most, cause without him what the hell am I to God? And I love God. Golly, that guy and I have been through it all. God gets me.
I think God laughs when I talk about my Jesus doubts. Just like back when I was in High School and I carried around my bible; I think he laughed then too. The thing is, once the zeal of ‘new life’ peters out we’ve all got to figure out what faith means in practical application. It was good for me to be so eager; so “on fire”; so close minded. I was being protected from the “me” my teenage reckless self was capable of being. When I think back on that “me” there’s always a twinge of nostalgia. I miss being so full of joy. So wide-eyed and full of unwavering faith. I got to experience my “child-like” faith as a teenager. I think in doing so I got to enjoy it more than most.
Then there’s a me of healing and independence. I spent several years drinking in the ability to do whatever I wanted with selfish abandon. It was good for me, and it was positively necessary… but it did not make me a very lovely person. It took a while for me to find a balance of who I wanted to be and who I was called to be. The tightrope was thin and I abandoned the pursuit (or landed on my face) more times than I care to admit.
I spent the two years prior to last outside of the church but still connected to small groups. Turns out God was up to something there. That “me” was pounding my fists against God’s chest. He let me rage on that way while sneaking faithfully good people into my heart. People that lived their faith. People that meant it. People that never judged and always loved. And they always meant that too. God saved me with community. He saved my ugly heart, and my mean ole thoughts, and my broken broken soul too. That “me” didn’t know what was comin’. I don’t really miss her.
I turned a corner last year and have finally (finally!) begun to understand what this word Shalom MEANS. That we aren’t landlords over the earth, but tenants. That God never wanted it to look like this. That we’re responsible even if we’re not the ones that fucked it up. That there are tiny pieces of heaven here, and it’s our job to grow them. Feed them. That if we let Him, God will burst out of us with every word and people will walk away changed. Maybe only slightly, and they probably won’t even realize it (I know I didn’t); but someday they’ll look back and see the transition into a new “them”, and they’ll think of you, and maybe me, but definitely God.