Growing up, Jesus was nothing more to me than a flannelgraph with long hair and sandals. He was the person in whose name I ritualistically ended all my prayers. He was also the one who did miracles and loved the leper in Bible stories. I knew that He loved me - “for the Bible told me so.” I knew that He died for me, but I couldn’t really comprehend what that meant, other than the fact that I would go to Heaven. I grew up in church learning all about Him, without ever having a real relationship with him, until I was 35 years old.
At 35, I was weary and broken. I’d never really felt (much less been transformed by) His love, so I was desperate to be known, to be loved, and to belong. After years of trying to get those needs met in all the wrong ways, I came to the end of myself. I didn’t know what else to do, but I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working (read more of my story here). On one hand, I had been taught at a young age in church that God loved me, but on the other hand, I was conflicted by a deeply rooted belief system that God was a legalistic, mean judge, and I was convinced that He kept a list of every single thing I’d done wrong. At this point, I wasn’t even certain if I was saved anymore because of all the mistakes that I’d made. But, there was a deep, almost hidden place in my heart that told me that the God that I had learned about in the Bible, the one who loved me enough to send His Son to die for me, the One who loved me first (even in my sin), that this was a different God than the image I had in my mind. I felt a tremendous vacuum between the cruel arbiter of judgment that I thought was God, and the God of love that I read about in the Bible, but I was finally desperate enough to try to find the real God. If the Bible was true, then Love existed as a person. His name was Jesus, and I hadn’t yet met Him.
I found a church that knew the Father’s love, and for three months in worship all I could do was weep. Strongholds, fear and shame were being broken off of me without me doing a thing. God was doing a deep work in me, and I was finally ready to let Him. I chose to submit to the process, and slowly, the icy walls around my heart began to melt. This was my first introduction to Love, the person of Jesus.
In the process of discovering who God created me to be, I began to learn that my identity comes primarily from who He is and what He purchased for me. Because He loved me first, I am known. By His stripes, I am healed. Because He endured every temptation I will ever face, I am fully understood, and never alone. Since He died and was raised again, I am justified and defended. Because He lived a perfect, sinless life as a man, so can I. Because He alone is the perfect atonement and sacrifice, I am forever worthy of His love. Because His love for me is perfect, I am able to love others.
Now that I know Jesus the person, I know Him to be perfect Justice, my Strong Tower, the Creator of everything, infinite Wisdom, my Guide and Friend, and my Protector. He is always with me (Immanuel), He is Light to the World, my Defender, untarnished Truth, the author of abundance, and the One who finishes what He begins in me. He is my Promise Keeper, my King of Kings, the Revealer of all things, my Faithful One, true and lasting Peace, and my unshakable Hope. And now that I know Him, I will never be without Him.
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