“I am ready to leave Jesus,” she said in an almost threatening way.
I was talking to a friend over the phone. This was nearly the first thing she said at the beginning of a two-hour conversation in which she railed at God for her broken circumstances, deep sorrows, and vast disappointments. She was in incredible emotional pain, a drowning woman thrashing about for something solid to save her, something good, something she could trust, something better than the seemingly indifferent and controlling God she was so angry with. She was devastated and ready to leave her faith.
I listened. I have been in many such conversations over the years.
In these moments I’ve learned it’s not my role to fix things, it’s to simply listen with compassion, hope, and love.
“Holy Spirit, guide my heart and thoughts with your affection.” I prayed quietly and I waited.
In forty-six years of walking with my best friend Jesus, I have plenty of life-changing principles I can pass along; good and wise words. But when someone is drowning in existential crisis, wise words won’t save them, only love revealed can meet this kind of desperation.
And I’ve learned love wins, love always saves.
Somewhere near an hour and twenty minutes, she came full circle. Like a lawyer who had systematically laid out the evidence that supported her case, she began her closing arguments by repeating her opening thesis. Flailing but exhausted, she stated again, “I am ready to leave Jesus.”
There was a pause. Just enough of a pause.
“I think you should,” I said.
My response wasn’t what she expected and I think it both terrified and further angered her.
“What!” desperation tinged her voice.
I responded, “The Jesus you have been talking about, he’s killing you, I think you should leave him.”
She was quiet for a moment, then, “What are you saying to me?”
“The Jesus that reigns down pain and disappointment to teach you something about his love, the behavior obsessed Jesus who uses shame to manipulate you into doing what he wants, the abusive Jesus you have been describing to me for more than an hour, I think you should leave him. Personally, I left that Jesus a long time ago…
I left the angry justice Jesus who demands retribution for all my sins, who practices distance and separation until I say ‘sorry.’ The Jesus who releases condemnation every day and twice on Sundays, who gets his glory through some form of eternal conscious suffering, yeah we’re no longer friends.
The narcissist Jesus that sits on a throne reveling in my desperate prayers and the insecure worship songs that highlight my need, the controlling Jesus who loves to compare my weakness to his strength, we haven’t hung out in years.
The fickle bi-polar moody Jesus who is happy one day and depressed the next, we don’t even text.
The Republican or Democrat Jesus, the political Jesus, we wouldn’t even share a cab.
I left the unkind, ungenerous, short-tempered, judgmental, punishing Jesus many years ago…”
Yeah, I didn’t give my drowning friend such an extensive list of all the Jesus’ I’ve left, but she got it, she knew the truth when she heard it. Why, because God is love and we are His beloved; because God is a Father and we are His kids; because you recognize Truth as you are being set free.
The rest of our conversation was spent on discovering, and choosing to believe in, an always good, always restoring, always forgiving, never leaving or forsaking, mercy extending, grace transforming Jesus.
I believe we are all on a journey of discovering God; the Triune God that is perfectly revealed through Jesus on a cross reconciling all humanity to Himself not counting our broken thoughts and beliefs about Him against us.
The list of Jesus’ I have left, some folks refer to it as deconstruction, or rethinking, or reimagining. Jesus referred to it as repenting.
Repent, change the way you think because the Kingdom is within reach, even closer still, it is within you. (See Matt 3:2 & Luke 17:20)
Repent, exchange the way you think about God with how God thinks about Himself as revealed through Jesus.
Repent, see yourself and your neighbor the way your heavenly Father does.
Repent, He is better than you think, so keep awaking to better thoughts.
I continue to leave my ego-driven Jesus. I continue to leave the Jesus made in the image and likeness of my broken experiences or some preachers fear; the prescribed Jesus of a rebellious fallen mindset. And the more I repent the more clearly I recognize the good news, the gospel; God is love and Jesus never leaves.
Nothing separates me from His love, His great affection, peace, joy, hope, righteousness, forgiveness, grace (see Rom 8).
God is love, so every time I leave my ego-driven, fear-based, shame focused Jesus, I discover more fully a transforming intimacy with the Jesus that never leaves…
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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