Tell Me Why
A few weeks ago a friend asked me a pointed question seemingly out of nowhere. The text came abruptly: “Why do you love Jesus so much?”
The question took me by surprise. I sat with it for a few hours. I knew the automaton answer taught in Sunday School and various songs I had learned as a child:
“I love Jesus because He first loved me.”
“I love Jesus because He died for me.”
There is truth in those statements. So much truth. Also, if I am honest, they feel trite and overused at best, shallow at worst. These responses alone represent a sort of exchange theology…substitutionary atonement in simple language. I can’t help but think of Lawrence Kohlberg and his stages of morality. In preschool and early elementary years children develop a kind of a “tit for tat” motivation for behavior. In other words, the mentality is: “What’s in it for me?”
I hope my kids grow up to love me for more than what I have done for them. I hope our relationship deepens to a different place over time.
Somehow I knew the Sunday School answer would only elicit an eye roll. I also knew the Sunday School answer did not communicate my deep love.
In the moments after I received the text message, I noticed emotions washing over me. First, I felt surprise. The surprise was not just because I experienced the question as sudden. I was surprised…and maybe felt a bit exposed…by the fact that my love was so evident. It seems I wear my heart on my sleeve and that made me feel a bit sheepish.
I felt embarrassed because I wasn’t sure what to say. What kind of love is this if I can’t name it? If I can’t express it or describe it?
I felt my heart settle. There was nothing here about which to be embarrassed or anxious. I relaxed into trusting my own heart and mind to revisit the reasons.
Then, I started writing. And writing and writing and writing. I wrote as honestly as I could without censure or fear.
I felt joy as I had the opportunity to think through just a fraction of why this love is grafted into my spiritual DNA. Staring at my list, I felt renewed amazement at who He is and has been to me. It was like looking at an old friend again for the first time in a long while. I was so glad to see Him…this lifelong companion of mine.
I felt gratitude. I was so thankful this friend took the time and initiative to ask me.
There’s an idea in the world of motivational self-help material called “What is your why?” or “Remember your why”.
I’m not sure I like the idea of applying motivational self-help messages to my faith. I do think the question is a helpful one to revisit from time to time. In my case it was grounding and affirming. It can let us see where we have grown or changed.
So, here’s my why. Here is my unedited version of what I sent that day.
This question is really more of the start of a discussion rather than anything that results in a short answer. It is a discussion I wish we could have over coffee or a beer at a bar or in my office.
AND : – ) I’ll do my best to engage over text.
I love Jesus because He seemed to love questions and stories more than answers. He often responded to questions with either another question or with a story.
I love Jesus because He was real. He cried. He got angry. He spouted off at people. He was sarcastic.
I love Jesus because He always, always, always sits in the dirt with the outcast. From the day He was born, He always, always, always shows up and does the unexpected. He never arrives the way people want him to. He refuses to fit in a box.
I love Jesus because He always, always, always sides with the person over any “rule”.
I love Jesus because He has given me one of the greatest gifts. He has given me a story. Life, Pain/Death, Resurrection. Over and over and over again. That’s all this life really is. Over and over again.
That’s just my own experience. It’s part of how I see and experience the world. Part of how I see and love people.
What is your why? I would love to hear yours. If you love Jesus, I would love to hear why. I hope you will find a place to share.