A date with Jesus

I dab at my face with my shirt sleeve and try to quietly suck the snot back into my head because I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about me. I’m not having one of those ridiculous “coming to Jesus” moments you hear about. I’m just moved, that’s all—and there’s a difference…a really big difference I will learn eventually.

The minister invites us to return later in the week to go through the “stations of the cross,” which he says he’ll be setting up throughout the sanctuary over the next couple of days. I’ve never heard of “stations of the cross” so I go home and look it up and learn that it’s a Catholic tradition in which a number (usually 14) of “shrines” are erected, each dedicated to one event in the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life. The idea is for the faithful to experience step-by-step that fateful day. It’s not usually celebrated by the Methodists, but the minister says it’s something, “he’s trying out.” I’ve read that a trend is afoot in which the mainline Protestant faiths are embracing elements of Catholic tradition they once distanced themselves from and I suppose this is an example of just that. I decide to return on Good Friday, the day Jesus’ crucifixion is traditionally recognized, to walk through the stations.

I spend several days obsessing about Jesus like I need to prep for a blind date with him at the end of the week. By all accounts, he was a real man, a carpenter and a Jew who was interested and knowledgeable enough in religion to be called a rabbi. Just from the Bible snippets I’ve been hearing over these last several weeks, I know he preached love and equality, even stopping to talk with individuals considered so lowly that his friends wondered what he was doing. All of which makes me like him very much. Yet, I’ve never quite come to terms with his claims of divinity. Why is he exalted as the son of God when others making similar claims are locked away in loony bins? When my best friend Julie and I were 12, she confided in me a painful secret. We were walking home from school and I could sense something was wrong. It wasn’t like her not to tell me everything. Finally she spat it out, she said, “My dad is in the mental hospital.” I knew she was referring to her biological father, a talented artist she didn’t see very often. She called her stepdad by name.

Her face scrunched up, it looked like she was in physical pain, like the time we stepped barefoot into those cactus needles. “He went crazy. He thinks…” She couldn’t say it, whatever it was, it was too horrific.

“What? What? He thinks what?”

Her face was a map of agony. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “He thinks he’s Jesus!”

I didn’t know what to say, how to react. Judging by her face, it was about the worst thing imaginable—and I got the sense it wasn’t the crazy part that so disturbed her, it was the Jesus part. Her shame was apparent, and I wished for something to say to make it go away. She had me promise not to breathe a word to any of our school friends.

18 thoughts on “A date with Jesus

  1. Did it ever occur to you that if you want to find out what Jesus is all about that you should stop listening to others and go directly to the source? Instead of spending all this time “visiting” churches and listening to what they say about Jesus, spend your time reading what he said and how he lived. Then, if you really want to get the full treatment, live the way he told us to live and which he modeled for us. The practicing of his teaching is the only way to really “get it”.
    Of course, there’s a chance that doing that might not make for a large blog following. The question is are you really interested in truth or is this “experiment” of yours just a vehicle to practice your journalistic craft. If the former, you will find the truth if you are honestly seeking it. If the latter, you are wasting your time. 5 years from now you’ll be off on another hot blog topic and this current “investigation” will be just another memory with no real value. I am really hoping you decide to skip the intermediaries and go directly to the source.

    • Tim, this journey has very sincere motivations–I promise. If you come back, you’ll see that I do go directly to the source in many cases. But I also think joining with others is part of the experience. I’m pretty sure Jesus said something about that, like “where there are a few of you together, I’m there too.” I don’t think I can have the full experience by staying all alone.

      • Corinna, I am glad to hear that you are sincere in your motivations; that this is not just another journalistic activity. However, you must realize that discovering truth is not a group effort; it does not “take a village” to discover the truth of Jesus. You referred to a scripture to justify your path of listening to others which is really nothing other, IMHO, than a justification of your chosen path. Jesus spoke to individuals and he expected individual responses. He is currently speaking to you and asking you what you are going to do about his revelation of the truth. He is not asking you meet with others and come up with some kind of group consensus. This is between you and him.
        In the same way, my response to your blog is really between you and me. I really would rather my response NOT be included in the “Comments” to your post. That is not the reason I am responding to your blog, to have some kind of soap box on which to spout my opinions. I am writing as an individual to you as an individual and asking you to set aside every other opinion about Jesus and go directly to him. You will find nothing but confusion, contradiction and uncertainty in the opinions of humans (including myself). Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life. Go to him and no other and you will find the truth. That is his promise.

  2. Corinna, the French philosopher Pascal said there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person that can only be filled by Jesus Christ (who is God Himself). It would seem that you are aware of that vacuum and I pray that you will take that step of faith in God to invite Him in, or at the very least ask God to show you if Jesus is His only Son and indeed God Himself.

  3. Hi, Corinna. I read your column “Spiritual but not religious” in the LA Times this morning and since I too am a “none” I chuckled all the way through it. I since have read all your December blogs but have found them not at all aligned with what you laid out in your column. I was hopeful I could go with you on a hunt for the meaning of “Spiritual but not religious” and whether or not that is the essence of “none” but alas, you are taking a different tack, and I am disappointed. I trust you’ll find what you are looking for.

  4. Hi Corinna-

    Enjoyed your LA Times piece this a.m. Agree with Tim Bratten above that while church-surfing may be interesting, the best place to go for enlightenment about Jesus is…hold on…the Bible. And suggest you get a contemporary translation (if you haven’t one now) like “The Message” by Eugene Peterson…who recommends also owning a “standard” translation. For now, read the New Testament to see how Jesus behaved; that’s how he wants US to behave in the world…..VERY “other” centered!

    Near the end of your piece, you mentioned a profound truth: “I can’t wrap my head around a God who is more concerned with our private parts than with the content of our hearts”. Our hearts are the ONLY thing that God’s concerned with. Our actions are only important in that they REVEAL what’s in our hearts, and the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that arise in religious contexts are intended to make us aware of how “out of whack” our hearts are compared to what God wants for us. ‘Course, in this life, all of us will have some “heart” dysfunction…but Jesus IS the model.

    Your quoted statement tells me you’re on the right track….SEEKING to know God (“Seek and you will find”). Keep on listening to your heart.

  5. Oh my, am I going to be the lone supportive voice in the crowd?
    For my part, I am simply giving you credit for putting yourself ‘out there’ and following your intuitive direction, wherever it leads. You seem to have a backbone of faith in yourself that will keep you flowing through toward your ultimate destination, and you’re right that the point of religion is to connect humanity together in a positive, unified direction. Hopefully to create lovely divine things– not to separate, pigeonhole, box in, or judge.
    I’m disappointed that comments thus far are aimed closer to conversions of some sort and less about personal revelations. Everyone has an opinion on belief, some of which are more interested in being right than being relevant, but your perspective for your belief system (or none) is what matters. I wish you contentment and confidence along your way, as I understand well what you are currently undertaking. (I’m perhaps not as brave as you are to try so many churches, although it sounds fascinating.) All the best, Jill

  6. Hi Corinna – just finished reading your LA Times article and all the blogs on your site. I can really relate to all your yearnings. I was raised a Southern Methodist and at a young age had that “come to Jesus” moment but somthing just didn’t sit right with my intuition. After many frustrating years in the church, I just stopped going – it wasn’t fulfilling my needs. Neither did Bible reading. It just didn’t make logical sense that an all-loving God would demand sacrafices, animal and finally human, and that an all-caring God could condem any part of his creation to hellfire and damnation for eternity.

    I began to read books on theology and found a whole new world out there with many interpretations of historical and/or mythical events. If you are interested in finding out about early Christianity, how the books of the Bible were written, what struggles ensued when Christianity tried to decide on what books were the Gosple truth and which ones were heresy, and how mistakes (many of them) were made by scribes up to the invention of the printing press, look to the books of BART EHRMAN. He is a professor but his books are VERY readable and may contain a lot of background for your search through the Christian religions and denominations.

    My wife and I have just recently joined the Unitarian/Universalist church locally and have found a home that we am able to rationally build on our faith journeys, free from creeds and dogmas, and in the midst of a spiritually sharing congregation. I hope your visit to the local UU church in your area will prove as fruitful as our first visit.

    I know you don’t know me from Adam (Old Testement reference, I think 🙂 ) but I am a classmate of Ted Nicolaou from Hillcrest High School Class of 1967 in Dallas TX. I keep up with him on FaceBook, saw his very interesting post which led me here. I am interested in your journey so if you would like to friend me, just look me up – picture is of a red headed (what’s left) guy and a great looking white beard and a better looking wife . I got to do Santa for some young kids this year. Thanks for sharing your talents with all of us and NEVER stop searching.

    • Hi Gene, Sorry it’s taken so long for a reply. I got buried under comments, but I’m digging out. I LOVE Bart Ehrman and have read several of his books. His writing is so accessible, and he’s about as nice a guy as one could imagine (I’ve emailed him and he was very kind to me). That’s so cool that you went to high school with my dad. Ha! What a small world. I appreciate you sharing a bit of your story, and I hope you’ll come back to my blog. I have visited the UU church on several occassions and it makes it into my writing but in a kind of funny way. Thank you for writing!

  7. Hello Corinna,

    I was never a “none”, however I did take a similar spiritual quest as you are undertaking. I spent about ten years of my life deciding which religion I would follow after being raised and Baptized a Methodist. My disillusionment was with all the terrible things that have been done through history in the name of Jesus. The Crusades, The Inquisitions, Slavery, and many, many other injustices. So, I looked at Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Baha’i, and even Scientology. I wanted to find something that was steeped in much less hypocrisy. I attended a few services of each, but mostly I read their “Bibles”, twice each.

    I’ve come back to Christianity, though I’ve moved away from any denomination. There just seems to be more “evidence” that Christianity is “right”. That maybe through Jesus is the correct path to God and Heaven. Though, I have come to also believe that if anyone lives the tenets of any of these mentioned religions, that they will still find themselves in Heaven when all is said and done.

    I understand that currently people are moving away from Christianity in droves. I also understand that this exodus may be unique in history as previously the ranks of those who call themselves Christian have always increased year-over-year. I also think that at this time, Christianity is the only shrinking religion world-wide. I believe that is a direct result of what initially turned me away; the numbers of Christians that do not live like Christ. Then, to add insult, they thrust their unkind acts upon others in the name of Jesus. That still bothers me.

    Many Christians quote scripture from Deuteronomy when they are judging others. Deuteronomy is a book of the Old Testament. Which is the part of the Bible that Jesus, on nearly every occasion, tried to turn his followers away from. Yet, there they go, on TV, on the Internet, on Social Media, telling everyone else what they are doing wrong and how they are sinning.

    Lets not forget that Jesus himself warned us against judging others on more than one occasion.

    “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” -Matthew 7:1
    “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” -John 8:7

    I’ve resolved to live more like Jesus. I’ve come to Christianity by way of science (which isn’t that unusual, I’ve learned). With my pastor, I’ve learned that even though terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, those things aren’t what Christianity is all about. I was a strong follower of his church until he came out publicly in support of Prop. 8. Which I felt was something Jesus would never do. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus continually denounced the way of life established in the Old Testament. His followers were constantly puzzled why he did not punish people, or shun people, or ignore people for which the Bible constantly said had earned punishment, shunning, or exile/excommunication because of this sin or that sin. Jesus almost never affirmed anything that Old Testament said.

    Jesus seemed to offer a whole new way of life. And, if everyone followed His path, the whole world would be better. That is a religion I can get behind.

    Please, I am in no way trying to convince you or convert you. But, I am fascinated by your journey. Fascinated. I am glad I ran across your article in the LA Times. I am curious as to what you will come up with, and if you will embrace your decision and “convert” (if that is what you decide)? Or will you revert back to the status quo because its easier?

    My only advice is to read the “Bibles” of whatever religion you contemplate. You’ll find that many Muslims hardly resemble what Allah and Mohammad have laid down for them in the Qur’an. Some Jews aren’t very near the Torah, either. Skewing your religious doctrine to justify your own actions seems to be a common problem with all the major religions of the world.

    Good luck.

  8. Hi Corinna, I read your piece in the LA Times today, and I’m fascinated by what you’re doing. I am an active member of a mainline Protestant denomination, and to be honest, I’m not even sure I believe in God. I appreciate church, though, because it’s a safe space to search, and it’s a place to connect with others who are searching. Often, I think God is nothing more than a force that connects us to one another, and I’m okay with that.

    I’m looking forward to following your blog. Good luck on your journey!

  9. Dear Corinna,
    I pray for you the ‘peace which passes all understanding’. I am a believer who struggles with doubts, as I think we all do. I try to remember that I am in good company (the Apostle Thomas) and when believing becomes too complicated, as it easily can, I repeat this prayer as my mantra: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me – a sinner.” This is one of the very earliest prayers of the earliest Christian church, and I find it comforting to be praying it still, in the company of those early believers who probably experienced the same difficulties we do now and who are praying it with me, in the Body of Christ, which my Anglican church tells me is composed of All faithful people.

    May you hear the knock on the door of your heart for which you are seeking. And remember, when trying to believe gets SO complicated, and SO theological, and SO much to keep up with, that Jesus told us to be little children in our belief. If you have nieces or nephews, just remember that when you tell them you love them and care for them, they just go “Ok!!! I love you too.”

    God’s Grace to you, and I look forward to following your blog and keeping you in my prayers.

  10. Ms Nicolaou,
    Thank you for sharing your journey. I was a ‘none’ for 52 years, a child of the 60’s and totally turned off by what I saw as the main line denomination’s hypocrisy. I suspected that there was something larger than me, but I didn’t think I’d find it in any church. Turns out I was half right. The event that made me start looking in earnest was marrying for the third time; a woman who I truly loved. Turns out that my fundamental skepticism about Jesus and His message of love was the fact that I had never really experienced love myself. Where ever your journey takes you, I’m sure you’ll be a different person for having made the trip.

  11. I just read your “nones” article in the Press Democrat here in Santa Rosa. I was thrilled to come to your blog site and find what you are doing in visiting churches and how others are commenting on your journey. I am 69 and have been in church all my life but it wasn’t until 18 months after my husband died in 1974 that I realized I couldn’t find the peace I then needed just by attending church and believing in God as I always had. One night in my own room I cried out to the Lord and said, “Father, i’ve done everything I can to manage my life well after his death, but I fail to find peace. Please take over my life. Even if it means I will be a widow forever, I want You to manage my life.” Immediately I was enveloped in peace I had never experienced before, had a dream that night of waving and smiling goodbye to my husband, and woke up totally changed, at peace with myself and the world. My young sons couldn’t believe how I changed in the next few weeks and asked me to please pray with them to receive Jesus into their lives also. They now have good marriages, seven children between them. My oldest grandson is studying in Europe this semester. His blog site profile says, “I am passionately in love with Jesus…” My next oldest grandson also loves Jesus and is studying to be a policeman. And so on and on. It is not religion that fulfills us. It is only a personal, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, who first loved us so that we could know and love Him. He is God incarnate, the second Person of the Trinity. Every one of us has failed to live up to His standard of loving and giving, but whoever “dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91). Give yourself up to Jesus and begin to enjoy the wonderful new life He has for you. Then, as you visit church buildings and services, you’ll know when you find a group of people who also love Jesus as you do.

  12. Pingback: God’s Desire to be Present with his People | Don Johnson Evangelistic Ministries

  13. I have been thinking and praying for you ever since I read your very open and honest article in the Dallas Morning News. After reading through the comments, I have to say that PamJK has beautifully said everything I wanted to say. I’m a 77 year old grandmother, married for 57 years, and since I asked Jesus to be my Savior in 1960, He has never failed me, even though my husband and I have walked through some hard times together and with others. Trusting Jesus isn’t about religion, it’s about surrendering your life and all you can do to merit His love and forgiveness, and receiving His life – a relationship with the Creator of the Universe as an absolutely free gift. I pray you will find Him and receive the love He has for you. I’d also like to suggest you read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

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