One day when I was sixteen years old I was talking to my mom. I was depressed. I told her, “I don’t have any friends. With the guys who used to be my friends when we were younger, now it’s like I can’t relate to them or the things they talk about. They want to drink and party and it makes me uncomfortable. I feel like I’m different. I feel weird, like there’s something wrong with me.”
Mom listened to me patiently. She was so sad for me that she teared up. Then she looked into my eyes and spoke words that shocked me: “Bill, you will be great in Jesus.”
It was like a flaming arrow from heaven shot into my heart! I didn’t know what to make of her stunning affirmation, but throughout my life I have thought back on those words.
Could I be great in Jesus? Could you? Surely, there is nothing better that we could do! Devotion to Jesus is the best life. To love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself is “The Winning Shot.”
My 50th Birthday Celebration
Recently I celebrated my 50th Birthday. Beforehand, Kristi told me she wanted to have a party for me but I said, “Thank you, but that would be awkward for me. I’m too introverted for that. Besides, I don’t think many people would come. Let’s just do something simple with our family.”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth I felt a check in my spirit so over the next few weeks I asked God what he wanted me to do. I sensed that he wanted me to face my discomfort and let Kristi give me a big party, but not a typical birthday party, this was to be a celebration of Jesus. Kristi could ask people, “How have you been drawn closer to Jesus by knowing Bill?”
This excited me, but it also scared me. It was so vulnerable. It was really putting myself out there. Have people been drawn to Jesus by my life? Am I becoming “great in Jesus?”
Ever since my mom’s affirmation I’ve wanted to be devoted to Jesus and to share this with others, but I didn’t know how to talk about it. For many years I was scared. Most people didn’t understand me and some were critical so I kept my heart for God private. But in the Bible I saw that David, Paul, and others were freely expressive of their love for God. It was the same with the authors of the devotional classics, like A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God, who wrote, “Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at it’s flame.”
One day during my senior year of high school my best friend asked me, “What have you been learning in your Quiet Times with the Lord?” This led us into my first conversation of soul friendship! I loved it! I could talk with a safe friend about the joys and struggles of my relationship with the Lord. Aelred of Riveaulx’s 12 Century prayer became my own: “Here we are you and I, and I hope that Christ makes a third!”
My life has been a journey of drawing closer to Jesus, falling back and pressing on again. Along the way I have learned to share, my experiences with others with the hope that it will draw them closer to Jesus too.
A Conversation with Jesus
Kristi did host the 50th Birthday Party and our family and friends shared about their experiences with Jesus. I have over twenty pages of notes and prayers that I’ve been reading, re-reading and thanking God for!
One of my favorite stories came from my friend who recalled, “I remember the day I had come to your house to visit Kristi. You came home for lunch and greeted me warmly and then you excused yourself to go outside. You said, ‘I need to talk things over with Jesus.’ And out you went. There you were sitting outside and there was no doubt in my mind that you were having a conversation with Jesus as if he was there in the flesh. I was watching you go out there to have some time with Jesus during your lunch. Something had happened earlier that day and you wanted to talk to Jesus about it.
“That was a tangible display of how accessible, how desirous, how open Jesus is to me. I feel closer to a Savior who is so willing to listen, respond, and guide me.”
Shine Your Light for Jesus
Jesus says to us: “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) If we don’t shine with the love of Christ in our relational networks then God’s light will be dim there. No one else can be you. No one else has the influence you have in your world.
Try saying to the unsure teenager who lives inside of your heart, “You are the light of the world! You will be great in Jesus!”
Wow! I looked at my picture back then (above), looked into my eyes, and did this. It gives me more courage to shine the light of Christ today, to be vulnerable, not worrying about what people might think of me, and share with others my experiences with Jesus. When we do this together we’re blessed to become “Deep-Spirited Friends.”