I used to have a crush on Jesus.
Perhaps that is the best way to put it – that time in my life when I was in eighth grade and first went head over heels for the Gospel. Was it the gospel or was it the cute camp counselor who dressed up in a sheet and sandals to portray Jesus in the “Christ Walk” at Bible Camp?
Whatever it was, I was finally paying attention.
I had grown up in the church, I had counted every light fixture and ceiling tile a thousand times over as I sat and waited for those tiresome services to end. That same church forced me to go to Bible camp before I could be confirmed. I expected that week of camp to be less than thrilling. I was terrified to go, actually, I had never slept away from my own home.
But what I found that week was a community unlike anything I had ever known. I didn’t know life could be so wonderful as that week was. There was fun and there was laughter and there was a sense of belonging – even for me – a painfully shy, overweight middle schooler with ratty clothes, greasy hair, and huge glasses. While some of the kids were the typical mean bullies of the kind I had experienced in school, the counselors were fantastic and full of life and kindness. The joy they had as they shared Jesus with us and as they shared their days with us felt like some sort of good medicine that I had been needing for a long time.
From that point on I had a crush on all of it. I wanted that camp rush, that belonging rush, that Jesus rush for the rest of my life!
So what does one do when one has a crush on Jesus? You figure out a way to be close to him forever. I knew the church was supposed to be that kind of place. So I said I wanted to be a pastor. And as I came from a home that revered pastors, I was encouraged heartily in this ambition.
I’m thankful for that encouragement, although my crush on Jesus faded with time. Bible camp is a place for Jesus crushes, the church is not. The church teaches you the hard lessons of love and of a long-term relationship with God and God’s people. There’s rarely rush of emotion, the excitement is muted, there’s no packing up and heading home when the autumn comes or longing for summer to come to experience the buzz of it all again. Rather, church is a never-ending journey of learning and growing, praying prayers that too often feel empty but sometimes are so full; it’s loving God’s people – even though sometimes they suck and I suck and we fail at it, but sometimes we succeed and we catch glimpses of Jesus in each other. Sometimes. Being part of Jesus’ people on earth in the church means continuing to share the Word and the Sacraments, even though there is often too much of routine and too little of feeling the Spirit, but we trust the Holy Spirit is with us. Jesus has promised us this. I believe that promise. I trust in it with everything i am.
My Jesus crush went away a long time ago. While it’s been replaced with a love that is long and lasting and good, I will admit I miss the crush and I think wistfully of it – as one might remember a first kiss, or what your child was like as a newborn, sweet and fresh. Teetering on the brink of every possibility.
Dear God, fan the spark inside us so that our passion burns for you – once again and forever. Amen.