Jenn grew up in a God-fearing, Christian-rearing home. Sunday meant church, dinner, whatever in between, and church again on Sunday night. Wednesday meant midweek Bible study or choir practice.
The Bible stories and worship songs were part of life—part of who she was. She loved church, loved listening to her mom play the piano and sing. Loved being with people who loved her. Loved singing. Loved Jesus. Loved herself. Loved others.
But life didn't always love her. Some of the people she'd grown to love and respect had grown to look down on her and judge her. She was only ten years old when judgment first struck. She couldn't understand why reading Harry Potter was wrong. It couldn't be wrong. It wasn't wrong. It isn't wrong. It's a fiction fantasy—a great story—a going-to-be time-tested, enduring story.
The words stung—still sting. The tiny crack in her heart began to grow with every cutting remark. As the years passed, the words cut deeper, and her heart began to harden.
"You choose the wrong friends."
"You're a bad influence. You can no longer be on the worship team."
"You'll never amount to anything."
Words cut deep. Calloused, cynical christians drove their cutting words into her heart—drove her away from church—away from their hypocrisy—away from the Jesus she'd heard about but had never seen.
Hope had dissolved into a list of rules. And the rules kept changing, growing, choking. She could never measure up and lost interest in trying.
What happened to the Jesus she'd known as a little girl? Where did he go? The life-changing, world-arranging king of kings hadn't seemed to change any of the lives around her. Was he around her? Was he around anyone?
She'd gone to church all those years—her entire childhood. And now she is a young woman. Strong. Determined. And wanting something real—something authentic. The words and the songs she'd loved as a child had felt so real, but where were the transformed lives? Where were the changed hearts, the humble spirits, the gentle, encouraging words?
They weren't anywhere to be found in her church.
She'd loved the Jesus she'd heard about but never saw—loved the words he'd said—the miraculous, fantastical stories. She could cling to love and humility. Kindness and gentleness. Those were good things. They seemed real and seemed to transcend the superficial world. But those good things didn't transcend the pettiness of the people around her who claimed to believe and follow Jesus.
So, Jenn left the church that had left her empty and soul-less. Sadness lingered more than bitterness. What a sad bunch of people. If Jesus was real—if any of it was real—they had surely missed it. She had wanted it to be real—wanted to see it—couldn't see it—had never seen it—and would have to look for it elsewhere or stop looking at all.
Stop looking at all.
She remembered their pastor saying Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost. So, she reasoned that she needn't worry. If she was lost and he was real, he would be seeking her even if she ran away and hid.
The Jesus she looked for but never saw was in that church buried deep beneath layer upon layer of missing-the-point rules.
Knowing the right things and doing the right things is not what life is about.
Real living is about knowing the One who knew us before He set the foundations of the Earth. Our work—our only work is to believe in Him. He breathes life-giving, life-sustaining hope that does the work just as simply as our hearts beat and our lungs breathe without any conscious effort of our part.
When I surrender my stubbornness, my will, my ill thoughts, my everything and every part of me—when I die to myself and trust in Him, I'm alive.
I'm alive in Him, and He is alive in me as sure as the air I breathe flows in and out sending oxygen throughout every living cell.
Jenn, I nor anyone else is your judge except the One who refused to judge. I've dropped my stone. Others have dropped their stones. Others will drop their stones when they finally see him.
Can you drop yours? Don't judge Jesus by the sins of his followers. He is still seeking after you. You can keep running—keep hiding, or you can stop and call his name.