Those may be the most powerful words I’ve ever heard anybody say.
I was speaking with a friend of mine, a friend who had introduced me to Jesus years ago but was now claiming to be agnostic (or athiest, or something… I don’t remember exactly what he claimed to believe, if anything, only that he had no interest in following Jesus anymore.) I had been heartbroken upon finding out that my friend no longer believed in everything he’d taught me – that the man who’d helped set me on the path that has shaped my life was no longer walking on it. But those three words confused me. Not because he was so obviously, in that moment, admitting his belief, but because I’d never thought of Jesus as a person before.
“I miss him.” What? You miss who??? I mean, okay, obviously my friend was talking about Jesus but what did he mean? Had he said he missed the Christian lifestyle or following the Christian religion or even missed being part of the church, I would have understood.
I would have understood missing the peace that comes with a belief in God or the encouragement that comes from belonging to a church or the reassurance of having a standard of morality that comes from outside yourself. And, of course, I understand the comfort in the promise of life after death, forgiveness of sins, and the other major tenants of the Christian faith.
But my friend missed Jesus? As in… a person? A person he knew in some intimate way whose absence could cause pain? I couldn’t wrap my brain around that. In a way, I still can’t.
Because here’s what I think…
I think I know God as Master. I think I know God as Provider, and I think I know God a little bit as Sanctifier. But I know very little of God as Refuge or Shelter or the Giver of Peace that “passes understanding.” I know even less of God as Friend. I know nothing at all of God as Lover.
And here’s what else I think. I think that if you really know Jesus as a friend – as a best friend – a friend who is “closer than a brother,” you want everyone else to know Him, too. You become a missionary – wherever you are – because you can’t possibly be anything else. I think that when you know Jesus as lover, you see things differently, you feel things differently. I think that when you know Jesus as lover, you can’t help but love everyone around you, you can’t help but speak kindly, patiently, gently (and not arrogantly, pridefully and hatefully as I’m so wont to do.) I think that when you know Jesus as lover, everything changes.
And I think that when you know Jesus as lover, you can’t leave him. Sure, you can separate, you can walk away for a while, but you’ll never stop longing to return. You’ve married, so to speak, to the only Man you’ll ever love and you know that the rest of your life will never be the same without Him.
Through the years, I’ve watched a lot of people walk away from their Christian faith. I’ve watched others struggle with their belief in God. I hear people talk about “religion” and “belief” and I cringe. Because if all I have is a religion – if all I have is a belief… if I don’t have a relationship with a person named Jesus Christ – then I’ve got nothing at all.
And in some ways, I recognize that is still all I have. But my friend? The one who missed Him? Eventually he returned. He renewed his vows, so to speak. And he knows Jesus in a way that I still don’t.
In a way that I so desperately want to.
(I’ve written about this before, but lately I’ve been feeling this lack more intensely. If you’d like to understand more, please read the first article I wrote on this subject, HERE.)
That I may gain Christ