Years ago Marcus Borg wrote the book, "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time." I was in my mid thirties, with two children under the age of five when I felt called to go to seminary. Borg's book was refreshing, and for many of us who were discerning what God's role was going to be in our life, I found that his book was also a great source of comfort and understanding for my journey.
As a young child, Rev. Lee Mangold told me that, "Jesus would always love me," and I believed him. It wasn't until I was facing a serious illness that Rev. Mangold's words came back to me, and I once again believed this to be true. There was something about being seven years old and believing the words of a man in a large black robe that when he embraced you, a child my age couldn't help but to believe his words to be true.
I wondered, "How can this be?"
I hadn't thought of Rev. Mangold, or his words to me, in years. But strangely, it was as if his certainty of Jesus' love for me was being shared over and over.
The year before I entered seminary, Borg's book found it's way to me, and I remember reading the entire book in one day. His logic about our faith, and our understanding of who Jesus is to each of us through the many seasons of our lives made sense.
He begins the book by sharing of an experiment that he does with a group of people. He asks who Jesus was to them when they were small children. Their responses were pretty common, "He's the Good Shepherd," "I see him sitting with children around," and "He wears a white robe and wears sandals and has a beard."
These responses were so common and everyone in the group could agree on these images and understanding of who Jesus is. Then he asked them to describe who Jesus was to you as a teen. The answers varied a bit from one another, but because of their age, many had learned that there were consequences for their decisions, and Jesus suddenly became someone who could also punish.
Jesus then morphed into so many different images when they people entered their twenties and thirties, that it was impossible to find one concrete illustration of who Jesus is, and that for each of us, God becomes the God of whatever journey we are on.
How can this be? If God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, then how is it that Jesus seems to change with each season of our life.
Throughout seminary I was challenged to rediscover the Jesus that I believed in, often forgetting that "Jesus loves me always."
Having had COVID three times now, and living with life-long results of the virus, including an anxiety disorder that seems to have robbed me of my ability to be around large groups of people or loud noises, the Jesus I now encounter is one who sits quietly with me, often holding my hand, and telling me, "It will be okay."
Even as I type these words I am overwhelmed by this image, and I begin to cry.
"Jesus loves me."
It is a simple truth that a seven-year-old boy believed, and now, a nearly 60 year-old-man still believes. The image of who Jesus is has indeed changed over the years, but I know without a doubt, that the God who created me in an image so sacred, will remain with me always.... and YOU!
Stay in God's grip!
copyright 2023 Rev. G. Todd Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.