Step 1: Consult Your Friend Jesus
If my life proves anything, it’s that we often approach the Lord with our minds already made up. In those instances, we’re actually not engaging Jesus at all; we’re asking Him to sign off on our wishes. I’m not saying we do this consciously, but it’s very easy to fall into this trap. Especially if we have not learned to vigorously question ourselves. To consult Jesus in prayer as the first step in our decisions helps to “unmake” our minds. It allows time for the Great Revealer, the Holy Spirit, to peel away the layers and expose not only our true desires but all the ways we’ve covered them over. It softens our hearts and inclines our ears toward Jesus. Reminds us that we are not God. And opens our eyes to our real intentions.
You may wonder why I’ve specified Jesus here. While theologians generally agree that we can seek out any member of the Trinity for help — God the Father, Christ the Son, or the Holy Spirit — I focus this chapter on Jesus for a few reasons.
First of all, I want everyone who reads this book to know how good and loving He is. Second, having been “God with us” up close and personal, He can relate to us and us to Him. He walked among us on this earth; wore a physical body with its temptations and hungers, needs, and wants; and faced exactly the kinds of struggles that we do — yet without any failing. This makes Him a wonderful role model and example. Finally, I focus this chapter on Jesus because what really elevated my faith to the next level as a new Christian was making a new friend. And not just any friend, but the One who would become my Friend and Business Partner, Jesus. His unlimited love and acceptance toward me altered my life in every way.
After I tried for so long to fill the hole inside of me with money, success, and people pleasing, God gave me the faith (through much pain) to start looking to Jesus, and nothing has been the same. As I grew still, opening myself day after day to His love and direction, I began to see Jesus as never before. The more I talked with Him in prayer, the more my heart and mind changed. And as they did, I was able to turn from my old ways of thinking and be in a position for His will — and especially His own heart toward me — to be clearly revealed.
Experiencing Christ’s Love
Therapy got the ball rolling, helping me to understand that my entire identity had been wrapped up in a desperate quest to succeed and please others. During these intensive sessions, the insecurities and sinful pride behind all my striving were laid bare. Meanwhile, God’s Word was transforming my mind, helping me discover the Terry Looper whom God had created rather than the straw man my upbringing and my own rush of desires had constructed.
Freshly aware that I’d never felt truly, unconditionally loved by anyone, I longed even more for the Lord to let me experience His love for me. The little boy in me deeply desired it, and the man I was needed it, because I didn’t want to exist on head knowledge anymore. I craved an expression of love that would penetrate my heart and settle deeply into my soul, and so I humbly asked God for just that.
My prayer was answered many months after my burnout, while Doris and I were vacationing at a hotel on the beach in San Diego. Nothing dramatic preceded the moment. I was simply lying in bed one morning, praying and enjoying the quiet as the ocean waves played their rhythm outside our window.
In that peaceful setting, I felt myself being embraced by an overwhelming warmth and tenderness that, even years later, I have trouble putting into words. There was so much affection and acceptance in it, I couldn’t stop crying. I knew that Jesus was with me and that He noticed me. Really noticed me. It was what the little boy in me had always wanted from my parents; now I was receiving it from the One who sacrificed His life for me.
Doris saw a real difference in me after that. She says this is when I finally understood I didn’t need to be perfect to be accepted by God. This experience of unexpected love was so personal and so profound that it opened the door for me to understand Jesus not only as my Lord and Savior but as a real Friend with whom I could discuss any concern or challenge.
Relating to Him as I would any close friend — where there is trust, devotion, honesty, and frequent communication — had a great impact beyond my prayer life. For one, it later made getting neutral in my decisions a whole lot easier. Relating to Him so personally also helped me start applying God’s Word more personally, as written to me directly, not just to humanity at large.
Letting Jesus love me altered my love for others too.
Now that absolutely everything was new in my eyes, I was eager for everything to be made new in my world. His great love made me even more zealous to restore the damage I’d done to my relationships. Yet it was obvious that I had a lot of work to do to regain people’s trust, particularly within my own family.
For example, it took about three years of me being present in my youngest daughter’s life before she stopped being wary of my motives. My therapist would tell me, “Just hang out with your girls.” I didn’t know how at first, but Doris encouraged me: “Go sit on the floor in Jeannie’s room while she’s in there. She’ll talk to you.”
Eventually she did start talking, and as we connected, those occasional conversations turned into frequent ones. By the time Jeannie graduated from high school, she and I had eaten breakfast together nearly every day since her eighth-grade year. It didn’t make up for all the dinners I’d missed when she was younger, but I’m grateful she was willing to forge this tradition with me. Picking up my eldest, Tanya, after her gymnastics practices and going by the donut shop afterward also allowed us to establish a new relationship. These are some of my best memories ever.
Christ rebuilt my relationship with my wife as well. Doris and I were so into our “new” marriage (a marriage that was then nearing twenty years) that we would go away for a weekend every other month or so to take inventory and talk. We never knew what the time would be like — whether it would be quiet and prayerful, physically intimate, or tinged with disagreement — but when we left, we would often remark to each other how worthwhile it was.
I’ve heard of others becoming more whole in their soul just by experiencing Jesus’ love too. Sadly, based on the number of Christians I’ve spoken to about this, it’s apparently not unusual to go many years (or an entire lifetime!) without a deep sense of our Lord’s love. Rather than excitedly crawling up on Jesus’ lap as we can imagine the children in the Gospels doing, we remain guarded, distant. We’re wary of being hurt. Scared that we may not be lovable. As a result, a lot of people do what I did: they get busy “being Christian” — doing and performing to gain Christ’s approval — if they don’t give up on Him altogether.
Prayer brings us close and starts to reestablish trust. It is conversation; it is attention and affection passing between heaven and earth. It is what enables us to let Jesus’ wholehearted love in.
His delight is felt most freely when we approach Him with open arms.
To engage with Jesus as a real person rather than a vague concept took away so much pressure for me. It wasn’t about me being good enough anymore. I no longer flippantly viewed Him as my spiritual Santa Claus either. Yes, He cared to do kind things for me; yes, He was generous to me; but now it was about slowing down to enjoy the sweetness of friendship and connect deeply with Him. I was realizing that Jesus really wants to be my Friend — He is invested in helping me figure out this thing called life, and He never, ever turns me away.
When I understood this in my soul, I understood it is no more self-serving to befriend Him than it is to share your life with anyone you love. Jesus wants intimacy and relationship! He is excited and pleased when we invite Him into our lives.
Relationship, Not Concept
Maybe you’ve been missing out on the relationship He wants with you. Maybe you’re afraid of Him, convinced He wants nothing to do with you because of something in your past. Or maybe you’ve spent way too long in that empty space where you’re relating to some vague idea of God rather than the person of Jesus Christ. But you will never feel the love of a concept.
Love is a relational word. To experience unconditional acceptance, straight from the heart of the One who loves you most, is the seed from which all good things grow. Once I knew Jesus, once His love penetrated my heart, the fruit of His Spirit blossomed. I had more love, more joy, more peace, more patience — and I was never the same.
Excerpted with permission from Sacred Pace by Terry Looper, copyright Terry Looper.
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Is Jesus your Friend? If we’re ever to find our sacred pace, we must start by receiving His love and friendship! In that embrace, we can relax and do life with Him instead of struggling on our own. Come share with us about your relationship with Jesus on our blog! We want to hear what receiving His love and walking at a sacred pace has done for you! ~ Devotionals Daily