“But you were already a good person. You are kind and care about people and give people the benefit of the doubt. I just don’t get the whole Jesus thing.”
I remember how the weight of those earnest words from my friend shortly after I came to faith in God sat on my heart. I sighed under the pressure of her statement. I did not fully get “the whole Jesus thing” myself, so how could I explain it?
I knew intimately my many flaws, but I was usually thoughtful and kind, and I followed all the rules to the best of my ability. Early in my life I had witnessed and experienced the pain inflicted by loved ones – pain that came from their broken places. I tried my best to not inflict pain on others – to do the right things.
My friend knew I had walked away from the God of my Catholic upbringing in early adulthood. My return to faith came through my horse journey. I could explain that as I worked through horse fear issues with my trainer, I found that the reaction to fear – disappearing inside myself – came from those childhood triggers of rejection and pain. My trainer encouraged me to work through those root-cause issues, which I attempted through my lessons and journaling.
Introspection and journaling led me, a level-headed eternal optimist, to the end of myself – a place where the pain of a broken childhood, pain I thought I had gotten over, came crashing in on me. I realized I had simply walled up my emotions brick by brick over a lifetime, and when they finally broke through, I found myself on the floor, buried by old hurts. In that damp and musty place awareness dawned that I had been wrong about God. Icy pellets of realization stung my heart – the heart in which God sowed hope and optimism; the same heart God kept soft toward others, even as I hardened it against Him; the same heart that rejected the God who had always been with me.
Guilt and shame filled me as I sat on the floor and wept. I cried out to God that I was sorry and was so wrong about Him. But it was too late. I knew that.
But you were already a good person.
It was not about me being a good person. In fact, it was not about my goodness, at all. Being a good person could not heal the brokenness inside.
How did I explain that in my place of deep shame and regret, that place of seemingly irreparable brokenness, I felt a comforting weight, as if the Lord stood beside me with His hand on my shoulder? How did I explain the gentle voice that said, “It’s OK. You’re here now.”
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)
How did I explain the way my heart knew it was God? How did I explain that “the whole Jesus thing” began with His relentless pursuit of a rebellious and broken child? I could not understand nor explain that kind of love to myself, so how could I explain it to another? I couldn’t explain it, but I received it with gratitude. No, it had nothing to do with my goodness. In His goodness, Jesus would not be separated from me.