The Christian conversion is such a beautiful story and everyone has their own different place where they came to be a Christian. In the bible I love Zacchaeus' story of coming to know Christ. So many good meaning people make it a salvation recitation but for Zacchaeus to become a Jesus Follower, he simply climbed a tree so he could get a glimpse of Jesus as he walked by and without trying, became a part of the story. He was a wealthy sinner that became rich by exploiting the poor Israelites. He was so intrigued by seeing this Jesus that he had to climb a tree. He was also a short man. So that probably wasn't such an easy task for him. But when Jesus saw him, he told him to climb down and Zacchaeus so enthralled with the beauty of this man, told him he would sell half his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he cheated 4 fold. Then Jesus said "Today Salvation has come to this house." He didn't have to recite the Lord's prayer nor do we have to guarantee to pay back everyone we wronged in our own Salvation plans but that's what worked for Zacchaeus.
I have heard the term "born again"as the depiction of becoming a Christian my whole life. But have you ever really sat down and thought about how crazy but also how true that term describes our conversion as Christians and the Christian walk? I think of us and the beautiful rawness of giving birth and each story of how we all came to be is so unique and compelling. The only problem is a lot of us want to shield our conversions, our own stories. Maybe we don't think they seem right. Maybe we don't think they look like others people's stories enough and we want to compare them to others. We want them to seem less messy and more Holy. More perfect. As if we didn't suffer when we had our babies, as if they were born into this world in one easy clean push and "Whalaaa" a beautiful baby is born without any suffering, and all is perfect in the world.
And then if your like me, you realize this kinda depiction is even crazier but so many times we try to make this as the representation of our lives. As if we still have virgin eyes after giving birth. As if we weren't birthed from that same experience ourselves. And as if having a baby isn't a total upheaval of the life you once knew, gone forever.
Becoming a mom was quite traumatic to me in a lot of ways. I planned on becoming a mother and before I got pregnant, I dreamed of what I would look like with a cute little bump and how precious I would look in maternity clothes. Now I think, how precious I was for thinking like that! Once that test finally got 2 lines a sort of gravity sunk in for me. I had this bubbly excitement followed by a feeling of dread knowing this life that my husband and I shared together was suddenly going to be changed forever within a year. I knew it was coming…
Don't get me wrong there were joys in becoming pregnant and birthing a baby. Actual joys, and purpose and me being pushed to limits I didn't know I had in me. But the make widening of my heart and life to make room for my baby didn't happen instantaneously and it became a process and is still a process. I think of the story of Zaccheaus and how easy it was for him to convert to his new life. I know for me and others it isn't that easy to change over a new leaf. And we shouldn't expect others to be just as easy as ours. And yet the birthing process is a similar effect.
And people don't tell you the struggles and they don't tell you the messy gory details of the delivery room and the aftereffect. They don't tell you how it feels to knowingly die and say goodbye to that old life where mostly life is about you. I struggled with losing my old life. When my baby came out, it was not a pretty process. I lost seemingly half the blood in my body, my inner most private parts were exposed for all the world to see, I was naked and exhausted, and all of a sudden this strange little baby that had been making its home in my body emerged and I was too in shock to grasp the concept of becoming a mother to this child at that very moment. I was a mother but it just didn't click yet. And yet our conversions a mirror image of that.
The image of giving birth can be so unsettling for a lot of people but yet in a sense it is beauty and a real raw image of the glory of God. And in a same sense we draw closer to God, it's alluring and magnificent but its also unsettling to us and those around us. I think of John Mark McMillian's song How He Loves Us as a sweet description of how humanly beautiful giving birth and spiritual conversion are: "When Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest, and I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves Us." I love that verse but you might have not heard that version of the song after he wrote it a more mainstream one came out, changing the lyrics to "Heaven meets Earth like an unforeseen kiss." And that version just frustrates me now because it dumbs down the intensity of becoming like Christ and makes it seem more "crowd appropriate."
For some reason we want to play down our conversions and fit them easily into our daily lives and the lives around us. As if giving up a few things that "sinners" do is going to separate us as Christ followers from the rest and the fact that if we pray everyday and memorize the bible, it's going make us love Jesus more. It doesn't work that way. I could go through the motions of being a mother but that isn't going to make me love my baby anymore. I could learn to be the most perfect pinterest mom out there but theres no sustenance in that form of motherhood. But it's the way my daughter looks at me that turns my heart. The way she depends on me and the way I see myself and our loved ones in her smile that makes me love her and just for being her. You can't make an image out of that love, it just happens. You can't make a plan out of Salvation either. I might not look like the best mom but I'm just glad that the image I look like doesn't actually portray my love for my daughter. And it's the same way with Christ. We might not look like we measure up as the perfect Christian but thank God that doesn't portray who we are in Christ and the measurement of how we love Christ.
It's that Messy conversion that starts us. And the disheveled, craziness of life doesn't stop at the hospital. Noo, it just starts there. 15 years of being a Christian and I'm still just catching glimpses of Grace and truth out of the conner of my eye. I'm still learning about Christ. I used to think that I pretty much knew the gist of what was in the bible but now I'm starting to know I don't know anything about it. I could read it all day but until I see it through the eyes of Jesus it's just text and a lot of times it just seems muddled and it doesn't make sense. And the more I learn of this mystical insanity of Grace the more I fall in love with God and how he is just as obsessed with me, it makes me infatuated back. It makes you crazy, and it makes you not make much sense especially to the most practical ones. You know, the ones who think they have it all figured out. Well, I'm learning God is just as obsessed with them as well, they just don't know it yet. They just get too scared of His sloppy wet Grace that they keep Him at arms length. It's easier that way. It just makes sense. It's less messy. It's easier to control. But they're missing out on so much of the beauty and the art of it all. And Fear holds them back. Fear of being wrong. Fear of not taking a stand. Fear of not being apart of the Christian crowd. Fear of Hell.
We're scared we will mess up our image. We want to take the story of Jesus and we want to shape it into principles and laws, spiritual laws. Something pliable, but it doesn't work that way. The moment that you've taken the beauty of the story of Jesus and made it into a formula plan to get into Heaven, you've lost all beauty, and the art of God's creativity. I've realized lately that to understand Grace more, you have to just dive head first into it. And I not going to lie, it's scary as Hell. It'll even make you question if Hell really exist. That's how powerful and plentiful God gives His Grace. And it effects you like giving birth and having a child has. It takes our planned "us" centered life and it turns it into a messy, chaotic upheaval. And you won't even know it until your all in over your head!
And that's how Grace works. It makes you understand life more but it also makes you disoriented to the view of the world. Suddenly, you see people and you love them where they are. You see them, through the eyes of Christ. You see them with Hope and you see them with their scars. And they become beautiful to you. Thats what made sinners compelled to Jesus and scared the religious elite to murder. It's a love out of this world. One that sees the deepest workings of our heart and still loves us where we are. The scripture starts to make more sense. You read in Psalms when David caught these little glimpses of Christ's love before God Himself even took human form. How much more should we see the beauty of New Life before it even embodies itself in others?