I don’t know what it is, but ever since freshman year, I’ve been in love with springs in Eugene. Allergies suck big time, but for the three and a half years that I’ve been here, they’ve always seemed worth the three boxes of Kleenexes and the twenty packets of Zyrtec. The hum of lawn mowers and the smell of the chopped up grass reminds me a little bit of golf season in high school. This time of year I’d be at whatever driving range that was open pounding away at those little yellow range balls working out the kinks to my slice or just finding a rhythm to my swing. Nowadays, though, I’m reminded more of spring during my freshman year.
It was in college that I truly saw Jesus for who He really is; a person, not a religion. But it was during spring that I fell in love with Him. I think back to the nights I’d spend just lying on my dorm room floor listening to the drunken craziness echoing throughout the halls and think of how beautiful God really is. Back then I was reading Blue Like Jazz for the first time. It is such a great insight into the depth of a true relationship with Jesus. Donald Miller doesn’t fill the pages with doctrinal treatises, seven steps to spiritual success, or how he financially benefited from tithing. For the most part, he reveals his flaws and talks about how God worked on them through other people. The biggest one that resonated with me during my freshman year was the “us vs. them” attitude he used to have when he was a “militant Christian.”
There seems to be a subtle undercurrent within Christianity that tends to reject rather than embrace the sinner, the porn star, the homosexual, the liberal, the intellectual, etc. It’s like a subconscious arrogance that entitles us with the power to tell them they’re all wrong and we’re right. What we tragically overlook when this happens is the fact that we are not Jesus. Just because we take on (sometimes, sadly, with pride) the title of “Christian,” which was originally a derogatory term that literally meant “little Christ,” doesn’t mean that we are Him always and forever. The very Scriptures we like to throw in the faces of the world teach us that Christ came to do for us what we can never do for ourselves. So why, when it comes to issues like doctrine, abortion, gay rights, intellectual enlightenment, Democrats, pornography, and Obama do we pretend to have it all figured out and that if the rest of the world would just listen to us it’d all be okay?
When I fell in love with Jesus this time about three years ago, I realized just how much of a hypocrite I truly have been. I thought that homosexuals were somehow tainted and defiled in a worse way than I am, like they were infected with leprosy or something. But when I opened my eyes a little bit and saw Jesus, not as this icon for America who has a pretty white face with blue eyes, but as this radical, hippy-like, social activist who not only came to overthrow Satan’s hold on us, but to overthrow the religious establishment as well, I changed. I’m not sure if anybody saw and quite frankly I don’t really care, but when I started seeing Jesus as someone who loves when no one else would, my heart softened. The gays were no longer lepers, the liberals were no longer secret agents of Satan, and the intellectuals were no longer mentally possessed. They all became just as much of a sinner as I was and am.
Three years later, I still struggle with the religiosity of the Christian faith. Seeing people as people and not ridiculous, superficial labels is still a difficult task. As the pollen starts to stir and become airborne and as my eyes start to water uncontrollably and sometimes make me look like a sissy, I think back to what the Scriptures teach, who Jesus was and who Jesus still is and I realize that it’s still possible to be more like Him. It’s still possible to love my neighbor as I would love myself. It’s still possible to see through the outward appearances and find the broken, fearful, tormented hearts, including my own. It’s still possible to be relational as Jesus was and is relational.
Spring is a sort of mile marker for my faith. It was during spring that I was rescued from potential suicide. It was during spring that I believed in Jesus, got baptized, and started going to church. And it was during spring that I truly fell in love with Jesus, started writing about it, switched my major to English because of it, and started dreaming about what I could do to share it. But how will this year be remembered? In a year’s time or even in three months’ time, how will this spring be remembered? Was it the season that I backslid into the pornography I used to watch, the endless judgment I used to give and the divisive attitude I carried when I set foot on a liberal campus? Or will it be remembered as the spring that I gave just a little bit more of myself to Jesus and His people?
If this life of faith is as Paul calls it, a race, then I’m embarking on my ninth mile. Each mile behind me brought me trials and challenges I thought I could never overcome and push through and each mile in front of me has even harder challenges to test my spirit. But the core to our faith is Jesus. If we focus on Him and forget all the religious jargon that our Christian culture tends to defile Him with, no matter how perilous the trial may be, we’ll get through. If we eat our Bread, drink the Living Water, and taste and see that the Lord is good, there is nothing that could deject us enough to fall away.
The mowers are humming again. Take a deep breath, drink a swig of Jesus, and let’s run like we had one life to live.