Flannel Board Jesus

11:23 AMHeather

Hi, my name is Heather.  And I speak Christianese.  Fluently.  I can sing all the verses to This Little Light of Mine--and I must confess, my favorite was always, "Won't let Satan (blow at your finger) it out.  I'm gonna let it shine!"  I've walked a steady course in my faith walk since a very early age.  I never walked away from it or rebelled against it or denied it.  

And, I've been rather proud and smug about my good girl life.  

So, it has been a rather startling journey this last year-and-a-half as God has sorta shaken it all up for me, throwing some major new revelations my way.  All of last year, I felt a deconstruction spiritually.  I felt Him showing me that rule following and pew sitting is far from enough.  To be honest--in hindsight, I think what He was really showing me is how rotten I am.  How sinful I am.  All gloating behind my self-righteousness because I've stayed the course. Relying on my own goodness to be enough.  Seeing things through the lens of legalism and thereby discrediting my desperate need for the oceans of grace Jesus offered.  Holding onto my own good deeds as my life preserver.  Disbelieving and ignoring the lavish love of a Savior.  Basically--following a consumer faith because it was more about what I could bring to the table in exchange for what I wanted than it was about a relationship.

I've hardly been able to put it into words.  Yet, if you've followed me here for long--that doesn't mean I haven't tried to articulate it.  (Forgive my feeble efforts!  Hopefully, you found some nuggets of encouragement anyway.)

Last year wrapped up with some rest and physical recovery.  It was also a time for God to give me my next step as I'd been asking Him to show me what on earth to do with all these fresh truths about my religion versus a relationship with Him.  

Here was His assignment for 2014.  Sit at His feet.  Trade my task lists for the most important thing to choose. To sit at His feet.  Literally.  And figuratively.  To bow in humility to listen.  To quit doing--get out of the kitchen with my Martha mentality--and follow the example of her sister, Mary.  Who just sat at His feet.  Seeking His company.  As my pastor said--to learn to become a connoiseur of the gospel. To study the gospel.  Really soak it all in.  Be a student of the gospel.  Wade deep into the waters of the Word where an elephant can float rather than just wading gently in it as a lamb can do (look up this quote by Saint Gregory.  Good stuff)

Hey!  So here's a novel concept.  Having been a follower of Jesus for about thirty-eight years, I'd never really studied the gospels.  SO, how about starting the journey of being a gospel connoiseur by actually seeing what Jesus had to say whilst on the earth?  

Mind blown.

The IF Gathering in February tied so neatly into this whole thing, as if not by accident.  Hmm.  Who says God isn't in the details?  The follow-up study from that event is IF Equip.  And, yes, you guessed it--it's an in-depth study of the gospel of John. 

I'm in Chapter 10 currently, and I must say that I first dove into this book thinking I'd see myself in Jesus' disciples.  I expected to be encouraged to stay my same course but in a different way.  I honestly expected to maybe even be a little bored.  I mean, I've heard these stories for years.  

But, here's the thing.  The shocking truth of it is that I've been following the wrong Jesus for most of my life.  

I've been following a flannel board Jesus.  

There He is!  Rather one dimensional.  Terribly safe.  With the friendly face and the white robe.  And I'm the faithful little sheep who has followed right along.  All rather sweet and nice and safe.  I've played my role as the good little sheep.  And I've believed with every ounce of my strength that He is my Shepherd.  I've proved His ability to guide and protect through the rocky hills and the rough times.  I've clung to Him for dear life.  I have experienced Him in ways I cannot describe.  He's been very real to me.  

But, I've continually pushed and shoved a three dimensional Savior into the box of being a flannel board Jesus.

Or, as I've been discovering in the study of John, I tend to see myself more in the religious Pharisees than the following disciples.  

Oy vay.

I've counted myself as having it all together and following the laws.  I've patted myself on the back for all my good deeds.  I've been rather prideful just as the Pharisees who were called white washed tombs.  Because I've never really confronted how disgusted I should be with my sin.  I've never looked face to face with the fact that it's not us in the church and them in the world.  The truth is that we are ALL on a sinking ship.  We are all doomed to failure.  There are no levels or hierarchy.  There is just us.  And Him.  We are all going down.  

Except God saw.  And He loved us to death, so He sent us a life boat.  

End of story.  That's the gospel.  And until I confront the filth of my own religiosity and how short it truly falls, I will never fully believe or depend on the depths of His love and grace.  This love story has been about me trying to bring my goodness and prove my worth to a flannel board Jesus.  

And He just shakes his head in love and grace and mercy.  Because He is a three dimensional passionate Savior who shows a scandalous grace.  I need never try to fill my empty places, my deepest longings, with relationships where I can belong or be accepted.  I need never wear myself out trying to overcome some deep wounds of rejection through trying to be the good girl.  

Because the truth is that I do belong.  At His feet.  In His company.  Tossing off all else, throwing out misconceptions and my limited definitions of my Savior.  And just drinking Him in to be the real and dangerous God that He is.  That sent His Son not to judge but to love.

I read John 10:24-25 today. 

The Jews gathered around him saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."  Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you did not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me."

I saw myself there.  Am I religious--bound in unbelief about who Jesus REALLY is because I box Him in?  I limit Him with my own definitions and expectations?  I demand Jesus prove Himself to me over and over in big bold ways like an audible voice from heaven or a prayer answered the way I want it to be?  And, all the while, I miss how He's been revealing Himself to me all along?

Can I flip the switch?  Can I quit being the religious legalistic crowd in the gospel of John, who continually approach Jesus to fit their preconceived notions--missing the fact that He was who He said He was, and He is the lifeboat we all desperately need?  Can I quit denying the sinking ship I am and come face-to-face with own sinfulness, fully embracing how I am nothing without Him?  In that confrontation alone will I see my need for a Savior and be awed and wowed by His love and grace.  No longer desensitized by the gospel I've heard my whole life.  But being freshly and keenly aware of the miracle that is the gospel for me.

Can I become the "many" at the end of John 10?  The ones who came to where He stayed.  Who sat near Him.  Who listened with fresh ears and clear eyes.  And were changed by that fellowship to a place of believing in who Jesus was--the truth about Him.  

That He is not a flannel board Jesus.  And I am not a good girl who has much to offer Him.  But He is a passionately loving Savior who wants all that I can bring to the table. Just as I am.  He only wants me. Because His grace is enough.  I can swim in it for the rest of my life and be keenly aware of the miracle that it truly is.  And the scales of religiosity can be removed from my eyes.  Seeing all the ways He reveals Himself in a day.  Clinging there, resting at His feet, listening to His words.  And being emboldened to follow wherever the Shepherd calls.  Because I am moved to love and obey with abandon.  Because I am changed by the power of His love.  As He jumps off that flannel board and I quit boxing Him in.  

There is where I can sit for the rest of my life.  At the feet of a three dimensional, mind blowing Savior.  Sent from His Father for one task that He was laser focused to fulfill.  To save every one of us.

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