Hopefully you’ve been reading all week and know what is going on here. If this is your first visit this week, welcome and thank you!
I recently read a book, twice, the experience I had reading that book was profound to say the least, the conversations I had with Jesus throughout will stay with me the rest of my life. So here is the story of my experience with reading the book “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” by Jonathan Merritt.
In chapter six of the JIBTYI, the author broaches the subject of “encountering Jesus in waiting”. This is not usually something I do well with; waiting. God is outside of time, He is infinite, He has no clock. He can see all times at once, which incidentally confuses me because if we have free choice to do what we want, can God see all the possible outcomes of our choices at once? Or does he know what we will choose, because he is God, even though we are free to make our own choice? If He knows what we will chose is it possible for us to choose differently? Can we surprise God? The implications of predetermined destiny is something I need to look into one day, because I don’t like it, unless my destiny is awesome, maybe then I do like it.
Back on track, encountering Jesus in waiting, or as I wrote in my notes; dealing with God’s annoying patience, trying to understand His timing. My pastor at church describes God as a crock-pot God in a microwave society. I love that description because it is so accurate. So often we want things now, now, now. However God knows better, if he did everything now, then we wouldn’t appreciate it for what it is. Most of the time it is in the waiting where He is teaching us something. There is a purpose in the waiting; learning, growth, purpose, perspective. Sometimes our loving Father knows that we need to be left alone in order to receive what he is trying to teach us.
One thing that has struck me when reading the bible is how often I ignore the days, weeks and years etc between the parts of the stories. There was an awful lot of regular life lived in between huge biblical events. So why would it not be the same for us & our Godly events? Just because we live in the now age, just because I am in the now generation, this does not affect God’s timing. It is so true when they say “good things come to those who wait”. “Sometimes waiting isn’t waiting at all”
There was a time when I still lived in England, that I felt something inside of me that wanted to go back to church. This was in what I call my recovery period, I was living alone after a chaotic couple of years of living with “friends”. I felt this call, but I only went one time, on a Christmas Eve, I snuck in the back of the church and enjoyed the service before fining my Dad & step Mum afterwards. I’m not sure why I never took that step on a Sunday morning, part of me felt that it would achieve nothing, part of me felt that I had not business walking into a church and of course there was another part that just needed to sleep off the night before. It was around this time that the thought of the monastery came to me too. I also remember having a recurring dream of me coming out of water, standing up feeling alive and new, shaking my head & the water going everywhere. I always assumed it was some idea for a music video that I would one day make. However now I believe it was a vision of my baptism.
Around that time I have a clear recollection of praying to God while laying in bed. It wasn’t a great prayer, in fact I recall imitating a guy I’d seen on a soap opera once who didn’t pray but wanted to ask God for a favor for his sick wife, basically rolling the dice incase God was real. Anyway, at the time the woman who has now been my beloved wife for 12+ years, was just a friend in another country who I had met through work. Yet I knew I loved her, I knew that she was the one, I knew that somehow, my life would be better if I could just get to be with her. So I prayed, I asked God to somehow make it happen, and then being the faithless non-believer that I was, instead of asking out of love I bartered with Him. I told God that if He would just make this happen that I would go back to church, I’d go every week if He wanted me to.
At a rough guess I’d say this happened at some point in the year 2000. In March of 2002 I moved to Texas on a K1 fiancée visa, we were engaged in August of 2001 and filed our visa papers right before 9/11. We were married in a church, the faith of my youth, somewhat revived, but then again not really there at all. My conversation with Jesus that night back in 2000 was far removed from my memory. Fast forward to the spring of 2004 and I lost my job, it really wasn’t a bad thing, I hated that job, it made me so miserable that I had calculated how many days I had to go until I could retire, I was just about 27 when I left their employment. The scary thing about not having a job was paying the bills, I was pretty confident I would find work soon, but there was always that doubt.
At some point while I was working my notice my wife told me over the phone that she had been praying for me and the situation. At that moment I was grief stricken, this woman that I loved with all my heart was a good strong Christian woman, she has the most steadfast belief in Jesus of anyone I know, there is no hot and cold like you find with me, she is unwavering & I love that about her. Anyway, we had not been to church since we got married, because I had no interest in going to a church. Yet at that moment I was struck with grief, I told her that maybe we could go to church that weekend.
So we went to church, I wasn’t struck by lightning, the service wasn’t terrible & the building wasn’t miserable. We went back the next week and I think the following week was Easter, so we went again, 3 weeks in a row seemed a bit much to me but we went one more week anyway. I had intended that to be the last time we went until Christmas, I figured that we could start going at Easter and Christmas, that should be enough to pacify my wife right?
The internet tells me that the date was April 18th 2004. The sermon that day spoke to me in a way that is difficult to describe. It was a message on having a heart for God and guarding that heart, but the content is not really relevant here. What happened that day was Jesus spoke to me through one of His messengers. God caught my attention that day in a way that you can only understand if it has happened to you. The weeks that followed I was gripped by the sermons; God seemed to be speaking directly to me, specifically about me, with every word. You could listen to the message and not get that at all, yet that is what happened to me. Throughout that summer I wrestled with what was happening, as we got more involved, joining a small group, making friends. Was this something I wanted to do? Was this something I could do? If I were to make the decision to accept Christ into my life I knew I was making a rest of my life decision, one that I didn’t want to take lightly, although with hindsight it was inevitable.
Around Labor Day of that year we took a trip to England, spent a great time visiting family
and friends and enjoying being tourists in the beautiful county of Yorkshire. It was while I was there that I realized that my old life didn’t make sense to me anymore, it was while I was there that I knew that this new life was the one for me. I had made my decision, not in a moment, not in some great salvation moment, not even in church specifically, if anything it was in a pub and a football stadium and in traffic and in conversations with someone complaining.
The important thing is that the decision was made. I was baptized on October 31st of that year. The date didn’t trigger at the time, but the sense of humor of God was clear for me to see later, He baptized one of His hell raisers on Halloween.
So that is the very much abbreviated tail of how I began to keep my part of the bargain I made with God. All that time, He just patiently waited and loved me. Maybe it is not us who are waiting on God at all, maybe it is God who is waiting on us.
If that is the tale of how I returned to God, what the bigger picture is, is that over a period of many years, one incident at a time the devil was attacking me and moving me slowly further and further away from Jesus. The innocent young boy that loved Jesus, but didn’t really understand Him or what it meant to be in a relationship with Him, was moved away from Him.
The thing I learned more than anything while reading this book, the thing that God finally got into my thick skull, is that throughout it all, no matter what happened, what I did or where I went, He was still there. Jesus is better than I imagined, because He never gave up on me, even when I had given up on Him, even when I denied His existence, He always knew better. For years I have struggled with the notion that because God has done all this for me, brought me out of such darkness and pain into such an amazing life with such an amazing family, that He must have some really big plan for me. That I must have some great mission to accomplish in order to justify what He has done for me. I felt Jesus smile when I finally realized that He did not do this under condition, that I do not have some holy bar tab to pay off. He did this because He loves me, that is the only reason, He loves me, just like He loves you! Now that is not to say that God will not use me for a big mission or whatever, He can do all things, even through me, that is just not why He saved me, He saved me because of love & I will be eternally grateful for that,