“You talk differently about God now.” Curious, I asked him what he meant- “you used to talk about Jesus, now you just say “the LORD” like you have to use his professional name now that you’re a campus minister. My husband Dave made this comment about six months into my ministry with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. We laughed about it but it also made me wonder what had changed. I had been learning all kinds of cool things about the Bible, theology, relationships and prayer but I realized that it made me think about God in a professional way rather than as a friend. God had become knowledge to attain rather than a friend to get to know better.
It was a subtle shift in my vocabulary but one that made me remember that how we talk about Jesus matters- especially with people who don’t yet know him. With certain friends I feel a particular way in their presence- motivated by my friend who tells me about the latest bootcamp class that she’s loving (and only slightly guilty that I’m not doing it too), peaceful with a friend who notices small beautiful things on a daily basis- a curling flower petal, the smile of an elderly woman in the park, the generosity of her daughter playing with a friend, melancholy with my friend who is so passionate about social justice she sometimes gets too frustrated by the brokenness of our world to even speak. Some friends I can only take in small chunks because of their intensity, tendency to complain or gossip about others.
But I find that when I spend time with Jesus he always seems to be the right kind of friend. A friend who knows what I need more than I do. Sometimes it’s encouragement, other times telling me the truth about ways I’ve hurt others, sometimes it’s simply to enjoy the beauty around me as he points out the ways the wind blows through the trees as if to say “see! I made this for you to enjoy! love it!” And somehow during this time I begin not only to notice trees, but people Jesus wants me to care for or verbally remind them that he loves them too. It’s one thing to talk about the merits of a sermon- the points a pastor made, the challenge from a new devotional or the inspiration that comes from worship but it should all point back to Jesus and ways he’s moving in those things to draw us into deeper friendship with him. When this happens I can’t help but talk about him because he makes himself known through all these things. It’s not just for me, it’s for you and your neighbors and friends and enemies too. Jesus isn’t simply a theological concept to be pondered, he is a person extending his friendship to us each day. He never stops there, he has too much love- he wants to extend his friendship to others through us.
How you spend time with Jesus shapes how you talk about him to others. He knows the ways you most enjoy spending time with him- do you? I’ve tried lots of different things over the years- a regimented schedule of scripture reading, meditating on one word or memorizing a phrase from scripture, prayer lists, fasting (which I hate, but then again most people do). I’ve found that the ways I feel most connected to Jesus are when I go on prayer walks- enjoying nature, moving and asking him who/what I can pray about, drawing out scriptures, being silent and spending repeated chunks of time in the same scripture- I’ve kept coming back to a particular Psalm for the past year. It’s worth asking yourself whether or not the things in your life that you are doing to grow closer to God are actually helping you to do so- and whether or not you find yourself wanting to tell others about the ways Jesus showed up when you choose to spend time with him.
What are ways you experience Jesus’ friendship? Leave a comment about a time when you felt like Jesus showed up to care for you in a particular way or a way you told others about the experience.