As I was bustling about my prep work one morning, a co-worker whom I adore asked if I wanted to hear a horrible joke. Assuming it was a sex joke, which, you know, I’m always down for because I’m a terrible person– I said yes. But it wasn’t. It was actually a Jesus joke– and had I known that, I would’ve said no thanks. Sex jokes are funny and naughty and even if they turn out to cross every boundary you have, you can easily forget about them. Not so much with Jesus jokes. The joke was short and to the point and as soon as it was over, I gave a fake laugh and a half-smile and said, “Sorry- nope. Can’t do that one. Not funny.” I didn’t want her to feel too bad about it because the truth is, this person really has no idea about Jesus-y things. If I can be so presumptuous and naive to say this– she doesn’t know better. But as I turned back to my work, my heart was heavy and tears pricked my eyes.
I’m gonna be honest– over a year ago or so, I told Jesus I was breaking up with Him. Maybe not forever, but I needed a break. I even used “It’s not you, it’s me.” (Although He and I both sort of knew…it kind of WAS Him.) And since then, I have struggled and wrestled with Him. I have cried and said mean things to Him and shook my proverbial fist in misunderstanding and hurt feelings and unmet expectations. I have cried into my pillow at night and whispered worries and gratitudes and short prayers for loved ones. But we both knew things had changed. I have heard Him whisper, “Please come closer–” and I have held my arms tight across my chest like the passive aggressive girl that I am and turned my head, all the while silently hoping He wouldn’t leave. That He would ask again. And again. I needed space. I needed time. I never wanted to see other people. I just didn’t know if I wanted to keep seeing Him. Or how He and I were going to bridge the gap that now felt like the Grand Canyon.
And you see as of late, my faith has been questioned. My love for God. My devotion to Jesus. And maybe rightly so. There was a collision of sorts happening all at once– the final undoing of my marriage intersected with the most profound spiritual awakening and insights I’ve ever experienced as an adult. And while some of these were good, necessary things, they were messy. Painful. Confusing. It’s sort of been an ongoing thing to wrestle with the deeper questions of love and faith. Of God and His somewhat unknowable ways. I have, at times, screamed in my heart, “Is this a game to you?! THIS IS MY LIFE!” And yet, like the girlfriend who just can’t let go, I’d always come back around, feeling shy and a little guilty for my bad behavior. “It’s not that I don’t love you,” I’d timidly point out. “I just don’t know what to do with you.” So feeling those tears– having hurt feelings and a heavy heart– on behalf of Jesus– was a beautiful, bizarre gift to me. Because hearing that joke was like hearing something rude about one of my kids or any person I love. The kind of thing where you think to yourself, “If you really knew them, you’d never say that. Because it’s so not true.” And though I wished I could un-hear it, I’ve come to see that it’s because I love Jesus so much. That’s why it hurts. And though I don’t need to prove that to anyone else (because I never really could anyway), maybe I needed to prove it to myself.