I Want to Love Jesus, But I Don’t Know How

JESUS OF NAZARETH, ANCIENT SCULPTURE TEMPLE OF...
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I’ve been singing a lot of Carey Landry’s songs to Julianna lately. God hasn’t yet invented the kid who doesn’t like “and if the Devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack—ouch!” But I save that for the tasks she really hates (like having her hair brushed) because the anticipation of that verse keeps her happy until we get done. It’s a reward for getting through her “chores.”

The other song I sing to her is “Oh how I love Jesus.”

Julianna, do you love Jesus?
Oh yes, I love Jesus.
Do you really love Jesus?
Yes, I really love Jesus!
Tell us why you love Jesus.
This is why I love Jesus: because he first loved me.
Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus
Because he first loved me.

I was tagged in a meme last week, entitled “five reasons why I love Jesus.” And it brought something front and center that I haven’t really wanted to look at in the light of day.

I really don’t connect with Jesus.

I believe in God; I whisper to the Spirit or to the triune deity throughout the day; I know the importance of Christ’s sacrifice, and Holy Week is the center of the whole year (although this year, because we’re not involved in Triduum liturgies, I feel rather adrift and disconnected). But when people say “I love Jesus,” my insides tense up. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to fundamentalism, the way fundamentalists probably react when Catholics talk about the Eucharist. I know I’m supposed to love Jesus and connect with him as an individual, one like me; that was the purpose of God made man, after all. But I never have been able to do it.

This has never bothered me. Until recently.

Last week, when I was driving home from the writing conference, I listened to a CD of a religious talk my grandmother had sent with me. In the course of listening to these four women speak about their love for Jesus, for Mary, I recognized something lacking in myself. For the first time, I began to long to feel that connection.

I think my problem is that the Jesus of the Bible is underdeveloped as a character. He says a lot of things, and they reveal him to be both charismatic and somebody that you probably longed to smack, because he was so contrary and difficult. What you don’t know is what he felt, how his psyche changed over the course of the years. With a person, you can get some of that from body language. In a book, you have to get it from the writing. And it’s just not there.

I can only extrapolate about Jesus; I can only project myself on him. And that is a recipe for trouble, in my not-so-humble opinion. That’s where people start making God over in their own image, and thinking they’re called to be hateful at military funerals.

There are characters in literature—let’s take the obvious bloggers’ example: Elizabeth Bennet. Everybody identifies with her. Everybody feels like they’d recognize her if she entered the room. In other words, we know her. But how do you get to know somebody who picks fights with people, confuses his friends, refuses to answer their questions straight, and you never, ever, EVER see what he’s thinking?

What am I missing? I try to love Jesus in the people around me, by caring for the least of these in whatever way I can. Is that, really, all it boils down to? Or do others who talk about how they love Jesus have some spiritual direct line to Heaven that I’m missing? And if so, how do I hook into it?