Dear Friend, I saw a movie about you yesterday called Son of God. I always get my hopes up about this kind of thing, that in watching it I’ll be able to “see you” or “know you” as if for the first time. I thought the movie was well done but I definitely came away disappointed. But my self-talk was good. I realize it’s just a movie and I can’t help my cynical nature. No amount of will power can force me to become emotional or to forget all the cliche images, phrases, etc. that I’ve been bombarded with my whole life.
My brain tries to wrap itself around the idea of you, your story from the Bible. For some reason the you I’ve grown to love is not the same as you in the Bible, not yet anyway. The Bible and movies like this one are just words and images like any other powerful story. Powerful, emotional, yes, but how is the real thing different? The real thing is quieter, more private, something only you and I know. The way you love me and how I’ve come to experience this love has no comparison to anything I read or see in the media.
Yes, I shed some tears during the film, and I definitely prodded my self to look past what “I’ve always known” and see it with “new eyes” but it didn’t really help. Of course, I had the self-criticisms of “You’re just like the people in the movie who doubted, only worse ’cause you actually haven’t gotten over your doubt” and “you’re unlike anyone else who is strong in their faith; otherwise you wouldn’t be as cynical as you are.”
Some other thoughts were, what would I have done if I lived at that time? Would I have initially been intrigued, then fallen away, initially followed You, then denied or betrayed You, or would I have believed and fought for You til the end? For sure, not the latter if I were anything like I am today, always questioning, doubting, wanting proof, never settled or secure or at peace. But I have come to accept this as okay.
What I did like about the film that I don’t usually see when reading Scripture is that it really reflected Jesus’ love for everyone, even the faithless doubters, Pharisees and other self-righteous people–people like me. He was very touchy-feely which was both awkward and great.
I found myself thinking, if I live at that time, I would have treated this man like I do all powerful and popular people, who I admire. I would have felt jealous of His connection to and love for others. I would have wanted Him all to myself (I still do). Like a love-starved child, I would have wanted Him to take time out just for me. In the movie, it showed Him doing that just like in the Bible, with Peter, with the woman caught in adultery, with Nicodemus. But as always, I would think, “It’s His duty. He has to love me. I’m no more different or special than anyone else.”
At first, I couldn’t believe how I was comparing Jesus, my God, my closest Friend, to people in my life I’ve done this and continue to do this with, like my parents, siblings, leaders in my church and some of my friends and other family members I greatly admire or who I presume are especially loved, admired and popular. I really felt the peoples’ desire to just see Him, have a glimpse of Him, just touch His robe. And when He actually turned their way, acknowledged their existence, I could feel myself becoming undone. “Why me? In this whole crowd of needy, yearning people, why would I deserve even a glance?”
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at my approach to this very powerful person, as though He was just another authority figure in my life. Someone who I both idealize and fear. Someone so charming, my envy and love for them is almost one and the same. But also, someone I think I need to survive. Someone to pass on their wisdom, to fill me up, to pat my back, to teach me and mold me. I have always stood in the shadows longing to be someone different. I have always felt like a receiver, but now I know I can also be a giver.
The answer I am unravelling in my life is, this God I know and love is so much more than a person. I just can’t wait until the day when I finally can understand this. But I am willing to wait in anticipation.
As much as I am grateful for growing up the way I did, I often wonder how would I be different if I never knew Jesus, the real You, til now? Actually, most of the time, I feel that way: like I rarely experience the real You. All this stuff I read, hear about, watch, just contributes to the distortions, throws fuel on the fire of doubt and cynicism and monotony. Times when I really know You are almost always when I am alone, really centered on You.
I hear you in a way that ends up illuminating specific truths I thought I’d always “known.” My eyes are opened and I really am set free even if for a second.