Jesus came to me first through religious fervour and fanaticism. Christianity was almost a swear word, a kind of “you know who” or a “he who must not be named” sort of thing that, if you had to bring it up, an unsavoury taste lingered upon the tongue in conversation. Far too many stories were heard of priests molesting children and preachers zealously proclaiming “turn or burn” on street corners, causing most people who heard them to ignore their existence, if not shy away in embarrassment for them entirely.
My parents, and their parents, grew up in an age believing religion and politics weren’t things one talked about at the dinner table if one were to have a civil conversation. This is ludicrous because spirituality and politics are some of the most important topics of discussion when getting to a person’s heart. Never have I known a person more than when they painted for me a picture of the world and how they believe it can be fixed. If this kind of conversation were fostered more, maybe we’d be having very different conversations now about identity and the sorts.
It wasn’t until much later that I started to see Jesus as more than a “car salesman.” I had always been interested in mythology and spirituality, and as I started reading about new-age teachers, historians and storytellers, I learned that Jesus was a serious spiritual person. It just took hearing it from someone who wasn’t a Christian first for me to realise it. It still took me longer to trust in Jesus – whatever that means – or at least to give the Christian thing a red hot crack… here I am, still giving it a go more than ten years later.
I can’t tell you exactly what got me into trusting Jesus. Some would say it is the sovereignty of God, and others would say he filled the hole in my life or whatever (in some ways, I have more “holes” and “cracks” now than I ever did). As I got to know it more and more, the biblical story made the most sense of my humanity (or lack thereof), the world around me, and my place in it. I used to believe that the Bible was something you could sit down, read, understand, and walk away with. However, the Bible takes more than a lifetime to master. The Bible is the sort of literature you have to sit with over coffee or tea every day for the rest of your life. It is supposed to be read in a community, and It is the kind of story that moves from only the intellect to the centre of your being.
As I read the Bible more, Jesus started moving from being a spiritual guy who told us to love people (erg!) to him representing me. I can imagine the surfer Jesus that puts flowers in people’s hair and sings kumbaya coming out of the surf, pushing a craft beer in front of me and staring at me in the eye with a look of intense affection and saying, “Camaron, look at me. There’s more to life than what you lack. I can show you how to be more.” I think he would have an Aslan kind of effect on me. When he speaks, he shakes off the salt water from his long curls, but you shudder in fear and awe, and the space he commands has a certain gravitas. But instead of running away, you want more of him. You can’t help but be drawn to His presence. You hang off every word, even if they’re hard to hear.
“When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.”― N.T. Wright
I pray that we will all have that sense of astonished gratitude.