My wife prayed for me, for 13 years! She prayed that I would not just know who Jesus was, but that I would have a personal relationship with Him.
What does that even mean???
For 13 years, I went to church. I gave what I felt we could afford. I lead Royal Rangers. I went to men’s retreats and men’s breakfasts. I prayed. I read the Bible. Ok, I read the Bible, SOMETIMES.
Honestly, I had a pretty good life. I was living the American Dream. I owned a home (that I was making payments on). I owned 2 small, successful businesses (but somehow struggled to make ends meet). I had a beautiful wife and 4 beautiful kids. What more could I want?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” Check.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Check.
It’s SO EASY to read Matthew 22 and check the two greatest commandments off the list. Done and done!
But one day in November, 2010, God sat with me in the basement of our home in Colorado, and very lovingly asked, “Do you love Me?”
I quickly answered with a giant “YES! OF COURSE!”
Think about the day you FELL HEAD OVER HEALS IN LOVE WITH YOUR SPOUSE. How did you feel? What did THAT love look like?
I remember falling in love with Vonda. I couldn’t wait for the day to be over so I could spend time with her. When we were dating I called her, JUST TO BE ON THE PHONE WITH HER. I wanted to have coffee with her and stare at her from across the table. I felt an intense comfort when I held her hand. My heart raced. I trusted her. I could tell her anything. I wanted to buy her little gifts. If she needed ANYTHING, I was there. If she was sad, I was sad. When I accomplished something important, she was the first person I wanted to tell.
So, when God asked, “Do you love Me?”, I think He was really asking, “Do you love me like THAT? Do you love me MORE than that? With all your heart, soul and mind?”
With the deepest sadness, I had to admit, I did not.
Over the next year, as much as humanly possible, I focused my gaze on Jesus. For me, that meant spending time with Him, in His Word. It meant spending time with Him in prayer. When I prayed, I prayed, “God, I love You. I WANT to love You. I NEED You.” That was pretty much my entire prayer life for the next 12 months.
At the end of a year, this is what I realized. I LOVED GOD. But I didn’t love Him the way He wanted me to love Him, with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind. I’ve come to realize that it can’t be done. Not really. I still need the blood of Jesus to cover that sin. I still need His forgiveness. I STILL FALL SHORT. But I get up newly, every day, and I still chase after Him. I still pine for His love.
When I fell in love with Jesus, EVERYTHING changed. It was like someone re-wrote the Holy Scriptures!
“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:18
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:38, 39
SERIOUSLY. WHAT ARE YOU SAYING JESUS??? What do you mean exactly by, deny yourself? Or that if I follow You, You’ll make me a fisher of men? Take up my cross? What cross???
And then, it was like a fog lifted and I understood. When Jesus says, “Deny yourself”, He means, DENY YOURSELF. No hidden meaning.
When He says, “Take up your cross”, it doesn’t just mean I’ll face difficult times. A cross isn’t just a symbol of pain and suffering. It’s a symbol of death.
“George, fast your eyes on Me. Stop giving me Sunday breadcrumbs. Stop giving me slivers of prayer. Die to your own plans and desires. Die to your own agenda. Trust Me with your life.”
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
On July 12, 2012, we landed in Guatemala City, with 2 suitcases each. We had no idea what was next. NOT EVEN KIDDING! But at the time we knew ONE thing, and it was enough. For the first time in our lives, we were following Jesus.
Be careful what you pray for.