Monday, July 30, 2012

How Do YOU See Jesus?

Ricky Bobby always saw Jesus as a tiny baby.
(A guest blog by Lea Holt)

I read The Big Mouth recently and Julie spoke about her enthusiasm for her "new" faith.  She was talking about the faith she found as an adult… The "saving" that gripped her heart so readily and so mightily that she felt BORN AGAIN, as people like to say. What I think Julie is speaking about here is that she was an adult; she had knowledge of church and Christ.  And yet at some point in her life, Christ spoke out so loudly and so mightily and offered her such peace and guidance and rightness that she had no choice but to accept anew.  There was such joy and healing in that acceptance, that Julie has never looked back.  She has been one of those Christians who has remained as enthusiastic about Christ's love as she was in the throws of first acceptance.  

She is my favorite Christian, in a way. Because she has never wavered.  And because after all these years with Him, she still feels so excited about Christ.  She thinks about Him in her everyday life so much that she created The Big Mouth… A way to communicate and express how we, as humble Christians, can find Christ and see His goodness in songs and movies and getting gas and going on vacation and planning for our kids' future and buying salsa and going to the gym and getting pissed because we let the $2.99 broccoli go bad in the fridge (Ok maybe that was me) …  But Julie is one of my favorite Christians because she lives it.  And she isn't afraid to tell you about it.  Mom jeans and all.  (Ok, maybe that's me again)… Julie is more apt to wear leggings and funky boots or striped tights and a sassy dress. Yeah, I think I'm the one battling mom jeans.

Some see Jesus is a friend/father figure.
That said, she spoke recently of the enthusiasm that her faith gives her, while her husband has a quiet, more conservative faith; an old school Presbyterian faith.  He doesn't, for example, feel compelled to write a blog about Jesus. Nor does my husband.  My husband is a quiet and somewhat disgruntled Catholic (not that there's anything wrong with that — See Seinfeld episode # whatever) … Let's just call it a more rigid upbringing, with a lot of rules and guilt involved, so he is quite pleased for me — that I have found a true center and that I want to go to church and find a place that we both like.  He struggles with such a strict upbringing, and it has colored his view of organized religion.  And the color isn't all happy, sunshiney yellow. So it's interesting trying to find a place that works for both of us.

Long story short, my husband has a deep, very centered view of Christ.  There is right and wrong.  And Christ isn't all soft and weepy with you.  He isn't a man or a spirit who sits by your bed and holds your hand.  He is a very serious Savior who commands certain behavior and has very high expectations.  And when you screw up, there is a lot of guilt to be paid.  With my husband's upbringing, you can't even enjoy screwing up and being bad, even for a moment.  Even when you're a kid or a teenager.  Because the Jesus of his childhood was very stern and had already ascended into heaven and was with the Holy Ghost by then and they didn't talk about the kid who grew up and challenged, but still loved His parents, when He was a teenager, and a young adult.
Some see Him as a very serious Savior
who commands certain behavior.

As my husband was raised, THERE ARE RULES. There are things in his childhood religion that he struggles with to this day that I don't understand.  Things that being a good old Methodist Christian I know I'm forgiven for and I never even think twice about-- yet he feels tremendous guilt about — things that I don't even get.  He has explored more main-stream, less stringent faiths and he likes it and is in for it. But I feel bad for him.  Because I think that he may not ever shake those 20 years of guilt and rules and very stringent school and those "mean" ladies (Notre Dame Nuns.) Apparently seeing a wisp of hair from those teachers was cause for all kinds of gossip on the playground… making him drink his milk if he wanted to go out to recess from 1st to 4th grade when he was lactose intolerant (He finally told his parents that he drank the milk and then barfed in the bathroom everyday after lunch just so he could get outside, and they finally wrote a note so 5th grade was exponentially better)… It sounds sad/funny now, but if that was your childhood and your introduction into religion, so rigid, so many rules, and your life for 20 years, I can see why you'd be somewhat reluctant to change teams.  And not REALLY change teams. But to change your view of Jesus.

My husband hasn't been visited by my kind Jesus by his bed in a difficult time.  I think he viewed growing up with Jesus as a difficult time.  I don't think that those stern ladies, or his religion, said to him, as a little boy, or a man, that he could think of Christ as a friend.  And I'm pretty sure he never got the message that he could relax in God's love.  That he could just be who he is, and that Jesus would just love and care for him anyway, no matter what he did.  I think my husband would like my Jesus.  And I think that HE would like the guy I'm married to, if they met, by the bedside or in the car or out on the beach or on my deck.  Wherever. Because my husband knows Him as the way, just not as the friend He can be. 

My husband is still taking care of everybody and planning our retirement and GOD BLESS HIM trying to figure out how to keep 3 kids in college all at once and not have a heart attack at the same time. He has his same God somewhat, which has been working great so far, as his morals and work ethic and dedication to doing the right thing are unprecedented.  

Not that there's anything WRONG with that...
But I just want him to see this new Jesus… The new Jesus who broke the rules and is about love and a way of thinking that isn't about guilt and beating yourself up for being human.  This new Jesus who does speak to you — this new, personal Jesus whom you can speak to and pray to by your bed, in your car, in your office… This Jesus who understands your short-comings and your weaknesses and who still loves you anyway. And yeah, we sin.  We sin everyday. We speak ill of people and we aren't always kind and we do things that are downright crappy and we often make horrible choices, but this Jesus that I know doesn't crowd my faith with such guilt.  He tells me to realize that when I have screwed up, to ask Him for forgiveness, and to do better the next time around.  He tells me to learn from the experience and be a stronger, more forgiving, more tolerant and humble Christian.  He tells me to look harder, to study more earnestly, and above all, to see that I am one among many of sinners.  Many in the world, many amongst many trying to figure out how to make it, how to answer the questions, how to live a good life in this world that He has given us, and left us with.

I am, in no way, "dissing" any religions.  My husband's religion provided him with  great values and such core beliefs that are such a part of him and his parents' beliefs and the great values they instilled in him.  I guess I'm just saying that I see him struggle so.  So much guilt for things that I know I am readily forgiven for, just by the asking — I don't have to go to church and say eight prayers that someone else tells me to say in order to be forgiven.  I can just lie in bed or drive in my car with the radio off and confess all my sins and ask Him to forgive me and love me in my weakness — and to help me do better and be better next time. 

My husband's religious upbringing has made him one of the most honorable people I know… He sacrifices his own wants in order to provide for his children and his wife (me) and his family — His parents, his extended family… He makes work decisions based on what is best for his family — instead of what might be best for him and "getting ahead" in his career.  

I guess what I have realized here is that while I have an emotional, lovey-dovey, all-cry-in-my-car-country-song relationship with Christ, my husband has more of a man's relationship with Him.  I'm pretty sure they talk; I know my husband prays a lot… Every night.  He prays for our kids and his parents and our future and that we will stay married and that we will keep having fun and that we will keep making each other laugh everyday… And I am pretty sure he prays that he will keep being a good leader of our family.

His Jesus isn't necessarily mine — all cry-worthy and emotional.  I think my husband's Jesus is the Jesus who was up on the cross and knew that He had to do some hard stuff —  That being "the man" wasn't gonna be easy, but it was gonna be worth it.  I love my husband, and I love his religious rules that crop up and the ways we are different. I have a Jesus who speaks to me through sappy country songs and hymns and the plants that thrive on my back deck. And I get that my husband's Jesus is quieter.  Probably speaking to him by the bed…  He just chooses to keep it close to his vest… And just live it.

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