It was a beautiful evening. The sun was beaming from behind the center of perfectly placed white fluffy clouds. The expansive blueness of the sky mirrored the warmth of my soul. The whole picture filled me with awe. I was struck by the wonder of God’s creation. His color palette is ever more expansive than any human ability. Just then, down from the clouds, I saw the feet of Jesus. As he continued his decent, his arms outstretched, the people around me (why hadn’t I noticed them before?) flew up into the sky to join him in the air. I remained on the ground. I wondered why? That’s when I looked up and saw his full figure in all its glory… And noticed… Jesus was an illustration. The rough edges of the torn paper were obvious. I started screaming, “No! Don’t go! He’s not real!” No one was listening. That’s when I woke up in a sweat. I’ve always wondered what that dream meant. I’ve had it multiple times, with different places and different pictures of Jesus. But every time, it was just that, a picture. A 2D Jesus.
My religious life started at a very young age. I had been attending church since I was born. I grew up in a conservative homeschooling Christian family. I prayed to “receive Christ into my heart” at six, baptized both with water and the Holy Spirit at age twelve. But as I grew, things became more complicated. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t be good enough. I was well aware of my lack, my sin, my shortcomings and my failings. I would try harder to be “good”, but that definition seemed to always be shifting or even if I could figure out what it was, it was beyond my reach.
When I was in my early 20’s, my brother who was an elder in our church, told me that they needed me to play bass in the worship band. At the time, I had just started dating (yes, seriously) and had my first boyfriend. We were enjoying each other’s company and spending way too much time kissing. At the time, I thought I was beyond help. I was so far gone! I had kissed someone before marriage. It was the unpardonable sin. So I told my brother I was not in an appropriate place in my Christian walk to stand on stage and play bass for the church. I knew deep within me that I was not a good example of what a “Christian” should be! He said something to the effect of “Oh well, you’re all we’ve got.” There’s a ringing endorsement. Perfection or not, I was playing bass. And with that start, I never felt worthy to be on stage in the six years I played for that church. Oh and just so you know, that boyfriend only lasted 3 weeks. The shame of “throwing away my purity” before marriage stayed with me and continued to affect me for at least a decade more…
The dreams continued… And every time I saw a beautiful cloud and sunbeam filled sky, I would think, “Jesus, is today the day you will return?” I would be filled with hope and almost instantly that would be overshadowed by fear. I was terrified he would come back and the dream would become reality. In my practical mind, I knew that his return was a good thing. I knew his return would mean the end of suffering. If that were so, why was I so filled with dread?
My life has not been one of total ease and comfort. Some time ago, I contracted Lyme Disease. The daily result of that is for years pain and fatigue have become my constant friends. Also, I have suffered spiritual abuse that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Because of that, I understand emotional pain, bordering insanity. The Lord has used the pain in my life as a blessing. Through the abuse and physical pain, he brought me to understand grace. I now know that my righteousness is not based on my performance! It never was. God loves me just as much when I’m in bed unable to get up as he does when I’m strong and working. That understanding is a gift so precious, it is worth all the pain I’ve had to endure. Yet, I long for his return, the end of suffering and the reality of heaven, not only for myself, but my chronically ill friends and all those who have lived through abuse. The end of all suffering… Can you even imagine? I long for it- it is a reality that is sometimes more real to me than my life here.
The other day I looked up into the blue, orange and gold evening sky. The sun was going behind the clouds. Again, I thought, “Now Jesus?” Then I realized the fear was gone. Where was the fear that usually accompanied such thoughts? It was gone. There was such peace in its place. Because I know God’s grace and understand how Jesus lived his life perfectly for me in my place, I have a relationship with God. My Jesus is no longer a 2D Jesus.
Come join with me on this journey. Find grace. Find peace. Find rest. Leave behind the paper Jesus. Learn to hope again and find life in the real Jesus.