Are You Dating Jesus?

The Rev. Mark White, a Church of Christ preacher, has a great analogy for faith in contemporary times.    He likes to say, that people today are avoiding that true and life changing relationship with Jesus, and instead they are content to just date Him.

Perhaps he is right.   He suggests that we need to look at our relationship and ask ourselves are we truly doing anything more than dating Jesus.    

Getting Ready for the Date

On a date, you dress yourself up; comb your hair and try, with varying degrees of success, to set your best self forward.   When you are sure everything is order, you head off, at your set time and location. 

 Maybe that time and location is Sunday morning at 10am.   You arrive, hoping to relay this immaculate, refined impression and praying that all the flaws and imperfections are adequately hid. 

The First Date…

When you first meet the person you decide to date there is a tingle of excitement and anticipation.   In an attempt to size each other up, you make polite conversation.   There is no talk of anything deep, no politics, and no in-depth talk of religion or theology.   Below the surface of the conversation there is this intense desire to say and to show the right things.   What should I tell them?   What should I allow them to see?   What secrets should I share?

In the end, you enjoy the moment.   You enjoy the possibility of what this relationship has to offer.   You enjoy the time spent together.   You start to contemplate that maybe this is the right person.   You ask yourself; Is this the one, I can see myself with forever?    Was there that magic connection that every TV show and movie tells us we should have had?  

Should you keep your options open?    You, at that point, remember that relationships are hard, and you will most certainly ask yourself if this person is worth the risk, effort, and maybe even the hurt?    Are you willing to let go of all your insecurity and questions and trust this person, or do you continue to search out other possibilities and choices? 

Moving Beyond Dating…

All too often, as people of faith we get stuck dating Jesus, and missing out on the true relationship.      You move away from “simply dating” when you reach that moment when the light bulb goes off in your head.   You move out of the realm of “only dating” when you come to the realization, that there is no other place, in the entire world, that you need or want to be, than in the presence of that person.    Is Jesus where you want to be?

You move away from dating, when you realize the possibilities that you were once contemplating are replaced with near certainties.  You move away from dating, when you realize that the person before you is unique and one of a kind, and will push you to become a better person, or the person you were always meant to be.   You move away from dating when you realize that life without them is unthinkable.  For you, is a life without Jesus unthinkable?

When you move beyond dating, your willing to open up your full heart and soul to the other.   Conversations become more real and more revealing.   When you exchange dating for a relationship, you stop talking about yourself and spend all your attention and effort on learning and understanding them better.   Your focus changes from what feels good for you, to doing everything in your power to make them happy.   Eventually, you realize that this is the person for you, and you gladly and without reservations, give over the possibilities of something else, for that trust-filled, life changing commitment.  Is Jesus your focus? 

Are You Simply Dating Jesus?

As people of faith, that is the relationship and commitment we need to be in with Jesus.   Sadly, as in the case of our romantic lives, something keeps us from surrendering to that commitment.   Maybe we don’t trust what we are feeling.   Maybe it is the life time of bad relationships behind us.   Maybe we are simply afraid of the implications, and fear the commitment.    Hopefully, I can convince you that this leap…this leap of the heart is worth taking, and it’s worth taking today.   

Dating Jesus is Scary…

All relationships are scary.   You never know if you are making a mistake or the person before you is the right one.   How do we know that Christ is the answer?   How do we know for sure?    How do we jump in the pool fully, as opposed to only walking up to the side, and dipping our big toe in?  How do we do all of this?

I heard a story once, about an elderly pastor who was meeting with an engaged couple for some pre-wedding counseling.    The sessions were normal in every regard, but the pastor had some aching suspicions that something wasn’t quite right.   

His concerns were confirmed when after a meeting; the young man approached the pastor, by himself.    He wanted to know how he could know for sure that she was the one.    He wanted to know how he could know for sure that his beautiful fiancé was the person that God intended for him to spend the rest of his life with.

The elderly pastor smiled, gripped the young man’s shoulders and said if you wanted the answer to that question, he needed to meet him at the beach the next morning, at 5:00am.   There, he promised, his questions, fears, and hesitations would all be resolved.   The young man thought to himself that 5:00am was way too early, and hesitated.     To his apparent hesitation, the old pastor simply asked: Isn’t your fiancé worth one lost morning of sleep? 

(Note:  There is only one family that I know of that gets up before 5:00AM, and although I love them to death, I have to unabashedly declare that they are crazy…   Nothing good happens at 5:00am, and I have these deep down convictions that God created us to enjoy slumber [except on Sunday’s of course] 5:00am?  Crazy talk.) 

So that next morning, at 4:30am, the young man hauled myself out of bed, showered, and put on a shirt and tie, and headed to the beach.    There off in the distance was the pastor, in shorts, no shoes, and a t-shirt.   Instantly, he started to regret his choice of attire.

Greeting the pastor, he was immediately met with a question;  “Do you still want to know how you know for sure?”   “Of course” replied the young man.    Then the pastor, again with the smile, instructed him to follow him.   Without hesitation, the pastor walked out to the ocean and stood with waves crashing about his waist.    “Don’t hesitate,” the pastor called out, “Just head on in, shoes, shirt, tie and all”.    After a minute or two of hesitation, the young man did just that.  He joined the pastor by his side. 

“There are two ways to know,” he said.   “The first is to throw caution to wind, and throw all the hesitations away.”   We can’t worry about the silly things, like whether or not we are dressed right, or have the right shoes on.   The only thing that matters is the relationship. 

The young man, thought the answer rather hokey, especially as he stood in soon to be ruined loafers, when he asked about the second way to know. 

The pastor’s smile grew larger.    He asked him if he was sure he wanted to find out.    “Of course,” yelled the young man, “I am standing in the Atlantic Ocean in a suit and tie, I want to know!”.   With that the old pastor told the young man to turn around.   Without hesitation, he did just that.  

As the young man eyed the horizon to determine the great philosophical lesson of the moment, the old frail pastor sprang towards him.   In an instant the Pastor grabbed his shoulders and with all his might forced the young man’s head under water, in an almost bizarre backwards baptism.   The young man, head underwater was flailing his arms and trying with all his might to break the pastor’s hold.    With all his strength the old man, held the younger under the water for what seemed like an eternity.

Eventually the old man eased his grip, and the other surfaced choking up water.  When he had regained his composure, the young man demanded in an angry scream why the older would do something so crazy.

“When you were under water, what were you thinking?”, the pastor calmly asked.

“I was mad, I was confused, I was angry” 

“What did you want?”

“I wanted to get out of the water!”, he replied.

 “More than that, what did you want?”

“I wanted to catch my breath, I wanted to breathe”, came his answer.

With his smile the largest it had been, he grabbed the young man’s shoulders and said; “when you want another, as fully and as badly, as you wanted to breathe two seconds ago, that’s how you will know.  That’s when you know for sure that its real.   That is love.

There are many parables in our Bible to tell us what it is like to discover God’s kingdom.    There are countless stories that tell us, how individual lives are changed.   Beyond the Bible, we all have anecdotes or memories, of how different life was before one came to grips with our faith, and how radically changed lives can become.    Despite this, and oh so sadly, many of us are still just dating Jesus.   We are just toying with idea of him, until we find ourselves wanting him as fully and as badly, as we want everything else…even life and breath.  How badly do you want Jesus?   There are few more important questions than that.

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