My childhood picture of God was like a heavenly pope. All dressed in robes and ropes. Standing atop the highest balcony looking down on us all with a slight smile and a stiff wave. And when you broke a commandment, like missing church on Sunday, he would be looking down on me with a wrinkled brow and a scowl of disapproval.
I remember my Mom gave me a small card with the meaning of my name, “Danielle – God is my judge.” Yep, that just confirmed how I saw Him.
I grew up believing God existed. Believing that Jesus lived on this earth as the Son of God and died on a cross. I sang that “Jesus loves me” but I didn’t really understand what that meant. If God was my father, he felt absent, like my earthly father. If Jesus did love me, it was from a distance and in a broad ‘all-the-children-of-the-world’ type way.
I owned a bible, a small white one given in a gift set with a purse and rosary during my First Communion. The first time I actually read the words of the bible myself was in a Sunday school class at the church across the street. Sitting on old wooden chairs in a musty basement classroom, the teacher had us take turns reading from Genesis. Sunday after Sunday, we’d spend nearly an hour struggling through the vocabulary of the King James Version. In the entire school year, I don’t believe we ever made it to Exodus.
Religion. I learned all the “have-to’s” and “don’t-do’s” and felt the guilt when I didn’t follow them. And learned, guilt is a poor motivator.
It didn’t motivate me to keep attending church when I left home for college. In fact, the faith of my childhood got left home with the stuffed animals and high school momentos.
I didn’t have time or interest or the ability to get-it-all-right that ‘religion’ seemed to require.
During my college years, my older brother John, whose religious upbringing and subsequent departure had been very similiar to mine, began to change. He started attending a new church. He was reading a bible. A lot. And talking about Jesus. A lot. It was a mix between annoying and intriguing. He bought me a new bible. A Life Application Bible. Not for show. Not filled with vocabulary that made no sense. I was amazed to find that it was readable…and by golly, it did apply to life!
He introduced me to Jesus. Not the one in history. The One in the present.
That is where the courtship started between me and Jesus. He wooed. I wavered. He pursued.
And like any persisent courter, He won my heart. And the romance began.
An absent father. An imperfect husband. I had once wondered if any man would ever fight for me. Be my Braveheart. Lay down his life in my honor. Be my knight in shining armour to rescue me from doom. Put me above himself.
And as I sat watching an Easter production, the reenactment of Jesus, bloody and bruised, carrying that cross, heading for death, I heard my Courter whisper in my heart,
“I died for you.”
Love. Love is a great motivator.
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