Note: What follows is a little bit like a rant and a little bit like a prayer. I don't know what category it should fall into, really, but I thank my readers in advance for accepting my honesty without reproach. You may quibble with my quibbles, but know that the desperate heart behind the words is real.
Life has been tough recently. And, frankly, I haven't done life very well, either. While I think I've adjusted to motherhood pretty well, and I've managed not to make any major blunders with William so far, in every other way, I have struggled. If life is an ocean, then I've been dog-paddling inefficiently for weeks, occasionally dipping below the surface, only to pop up a few seconds later gasping and sputtering, and flailing for help. Unfortunately, there's not a rescue boat in sight.
In all this, I have found myself feeling very alone. Although my two degrees in theology tell me that God is everywhere-present and will never leave me or forsake me, I have walked around for weeks with a hollow belly--the kind of feeling you get when you haven't eaten all day--the hunger gnawing at your insides like a rottweiler chomping a rawhide bone. The hollowness has been almost unbearable, particularly since circumstances in our life are such that what I really want is a warm, enveloping feeling of peace and security. But, this comfort has eluded me.
Which brings me to the title of this blog. I've heard many fellow Christians going through similarly difficult times proclaim, "If it weren't for my relationship with Jesus, I don't know what I'd do." Or, "I don't know what people do who don't have a relationship with Jesus."
Of course, I understand where they are coming from and the idea they intend to convey when then say such things. They are saying that without their faith in Christ, they would be without hope. Even so, perhaps its the theologian in me, but in light of my current circumstances and spiritual state, I feel compelled to quibble with the verbiage.
When I examine my heart in light of recent struggles, I realize that my relationship with Jesus Christ is not enough. Yes, I have a relationship with Jesus. In part, at least, I know what makes him happy and sad. I know some of his favorite sayings and most memorable stories. And, he knows all theses things about me, as well. I can speak to him and expect him to respond. I can become angry with him, and he with me, and we can "make up" and enjoy each others company again.
Yes, I have a relationship with Jesus--a unique one, for sure--but I have a "relationship" with my Starbucks barista and regular handy-man, as well.
As I see it, there's a problem with the word "relationship," for it says nothing about the proximity of the two persons to one another, nor does it properly address the spiritual trajectory intended for all those who characterize themselves as Christians. The truth is, I do not need a relationship with Jesus Christ (and neither do you). What I need is union with him. The chief end of all Christians is not a good relationship with Jesus, it is union with Christ.
Right now, my "relationship" with Jesus brings me little peace, comfort, or joy. I know he is with me, but I feel like there's a smog of unspoken tensions and misunderstandings clouding the space between us. We continue to "relate" to each other, but not in the way that brings me ultimate freedom, or Christ ultimate glory. Because I am only in a "relationship" with him, I continue to live my own way, think my own thoughts, make my own plans, and then throw a toddleresque temper tantrum when Jesus doesn't conform to my will.
Thus, my conclusion: my relationship with Christ isn't good enough. I need to be one with him. What I need is not give-and-take with him--I need to be completely undone and consumed within his goodness and grace. I need the life of Christ to become my life--"it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). I need to experience (and not just pay lip-service to) the life of one who "abides" in Christ and knows for a fact that apart from him, the Vine, I can do nothing (John 15:5).
I need to be so united with Jesus that every minute of every day I'm smiling when he smiles, weeping when he weeps, and laughing when he laughs. Only by union with Christ can I truly know myself, for through the eyes of Truth, I can finally see what is true about me. I need the security that comes, not from knowing all--for even Jesus did not know some of the Father's plans--but from resting in the love of the Father, who cares for us. Only through union--oneness of mind and spirit--with Christ, can I truly "cease striving and know God" (Ps 46:10).
The good news is, in the words of Brennan Manning: "Love by its nature seeks union." This means that even as I observe my present life and realize how impoverished my spirit has become, I know that the love of Christ is such that he is already seeking to unite with me and provide satisfaction. It is the nature of Love to do this and it is the nature of our God, as well. In a sense, he cannot help it. Christ's foolish, serendipitous, jealous, and unbounded love compels him to woo me into union with him. If only I would stop flailing in the ocean, give up my hunger pains, and surrender. Let us pray for each other as we pursue that end.