Last night I realized something: I’m growing.
I actually didn’t realize it myself. I was on the phone with a friend and asked me a question. “Why do you refuse to say negative things about other people when they aren’t around?” They saw that the change had happened and they wanted to understand why. The question caught me off guard. I had to take a moment and think about it to even see what they were talking about. Had I really changed?
On reflection, I saw that they were right. There has been some change in me. I have grown to be more compassionate and understanding. This is not a rule, of course. Sometimes I find myself being short with others. Sometimes I find myself lacking in love. Most often of my sins, I find myself trying to think objectively of others… as objects to be studied and understood rather than as people to love. But, there has been a major shift in my heart. I think of people more often as… people. I think of them as possessing full stories that impact who they are and what they’ve become. I’d like to think that this helps me to engage with others with greater understanding.
The friend’s question was a bit of a challenge… Am I being fake or dishonest with them? Am I putting on an inauthentic front now that I am a pastor? Have I just gotten better at trying to be perfect when others are around? But the truth is, I have experienced genuine change. This change was not one that I tried to bring about. I didn’t one morning wake up and decide I would no longer be uncompassionate or unloving. It wasn’t by some Herculean force of will that I was able to change the way that I looked at others.
Somehow within the last year, I learned to love others in a new way. I learned to listen to others like I had not listened before. I actually started to care about knowing others. Knowing them so well that I can’t help but love them.
The only explanation that I could offer the friend was Jesus. Perhaps it seems too simple, but it’s all that I had. The last year has brought many shifts and changes to me theologically. I have embraced an anabaptist theological slant with a real focus on the person of Jesus. I’ve started to recognize Jesus as the fullest revelation of God.
Before, I knew God, revered God, respected God, and desired to know God better. God was a topic of interested and an object of worship. I believed God to be ultimately just even when His justice did not make a lot of sense to me and I was comfortable where I sat.
Now, I am in love with Jesus.
Really, fully, truly. Like I didn’t know how to love before, I love Him. With all that is within me I love Jesus. Somehow, this emphasis on Jesus – this razor sharp focus as compared to my previous big picture attitude– has change the way that I see everything else. It has changed the way that I see everyone else.
This snuck up on me in the last year. I can’t pick a time or a day when all of a sudden I fell in love with Him. I can’t trace my steps back to the moment when my heart was more fully opened to loving those who are hurting. But I know that the compassion that I now have is not my own. It didn’t magically grow organically based upon my own choices or actions. It comes from a place entirely outside of my control and transforms me from the inside out.
I am still imperfect. I still wrestle and have flaws. But I really feel like I am being impacted and renewed by Jesus. It almost feels like I’ve experienced a whole new conversions and like all of the bible and Christianity, it seems to be firmly grounded in a person.
**This blog post is adapted from a journal entry on June 20th, 2018**