The question with which I ended my last two blog posts was: How do we bring Jesus into our core identities? This question raises different issues depending on the audience we have in mind.
People who aspire to be faithful followers of Jesus will be motivated to have their core identities shaped by Jesus. Those who are not believers need to discover that Jesus captures what they want most deeply. In this post, I shall think about believers. In my own spiritual journey, I have found only two things that help me bring Jesus into my core. The first is obedience. The second is to meditate on the encounters with Jesus in the Gospels.
When discussing how our core identities are formed, I mentioned that they come about as we inhabit certain belief and value structures over time. As we make choices along the contours of our core identities, these become more deeply entrenched.
It is easy to see how a person’s choices to obey what she thinks God wants for her will bring Jesus more deeply into her soul. Every choice she makes to obey is a choice that following Jesus is more important or valued more deeply than the alternatives. Thus the person inhabits these value structures over time.
Meditating on Jesus’ encounters with others in the Gospel has also been fruitful for me. I began by asking questions about how I fit into the story of the encounters.
- When am I like the paralytic (I need to be in the presence of Jesus but I cannot get there on my own)?
- When am I like the crowd, so caught up in my own concerns that I will not make room for others?
- When am I like the Pharisees, standing in judgment on what God is doing for others?
- When am I like the four friends who would not allow any obstacle to prevent them from bringing their friend to Jesus so Jesus can do what only Jesus can do?
- Wrestling with these kinds of questions brings me more deeply into the text.
I see myself, my heart, my longings in a new light. And I see them within the story of Jesus’ actions in the world. To be honest, it takes me a long time. Over the past decade, I have latched on to a few of these encounters and thought about them constantly.
As I see myself in Jesus’ encounters, I taste how he meets me in more than my intellect. He meets me in my affective world. I find myself wanting him more. He becomes more real. I begin to experience the truth that Augustine observed: He has made me for himself. I am restless until I find my rest in him.