Three-Dimensional Jesus

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This year, the student authors of the Rooted Student Series give us a taste of the themes we explore in our new book, The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School. As students either currently in high school, college, or just recently graduated, our writers offer us a fresh and unique perspective of the Jesus they got to know in high school or wish they had known when they were younger. Their stories and their wisdom will help youth leaders and parents guide their students through high school and point them to Jesus.  -Rooted Student Series Editor Lauren Center

When thinking about the Jesus I wish I knew in high school, I realize how much better I know him now as a 22-year-old recent college graduate. Throughout my time in college, Jesus proved himself to be a provider, an encourager, a joy- giver, a sustainer, a teacher, a friend—among many, many other things. However, after mulling over each option, I came to realize that all of them could be summed up in one way: Jesus is, and always has been, much more three-dimensional than I thought.

I grew up attending church every Sunday with my family, going to all the youth group activities. I went to a Christian high school where I sat in Bible class every single day for 4 years. I was surrounded by the gospel on an almost daily basis. I believe I knew the Holy Spirit at that point, but His complexity would only reveal itself with age.

Each fall, my church would cram busloads of high school kids from sticky, humid central Florida and cart us all the way up to a beautiful Christian retreat camp in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. This camp, a 13-hour distance with views that made it 100% worth it each time, became a place of expectancy for me and many of my friends. It was here I bonded with the Holy Spirit, it was here I saw myself as more than just a “high school girl” but as a vessel for His kingdom, it was here I first felt the weight of His creation and beauty and glory all wrapped into one.

My sophomore year, the camp had a few of their interns working that weekend. We scheduled a time for some interns to prophetically pray over my small group. Hunched over in the dimly lit prayer room, I listened intently as the interns worked their way around the room, speaking truth over each and every one of my friends. The visions and truth spoken to them by the Lord gave me such great joy to hear—they were receiving encouragement, enlightenment, and affirmation! I waited in anticipation for my turn, and when it finally came after a beat of silent prayer, one of the interns said something like this:

“Eva, the Lord adores your heart. He loves your enthusiastic spirit. He delights in you! But — I’m seeing you, like you’re standing in a dark cave. Everything around you is barely visible, and because your eyes have adjusted to the dark, you think you’re truly seeing. But if you look through the cracks of the stones around you, there is light! And the Lord is that Light! And He is inviting you to join him on the other side!”

I remember sitting there numbly, feeling a combination of dread, anger, discouragement, and irritation. So, basically, was that God’s way of saying that when I thought I committed my life to Him a few years prior, it wasn’t real? I had to do something else to prove my salvation? I had to somehow climb this metaphorical cave wall and meet Him on the other side? Frustrated, I wrestled with the true meaning of that prayer for the days, weeks, months—even years following. Clearly, I wouldn’t be writing about it today unless it hadn’t stayed with me.

I have since realized a few things:

  1. Humans are fallible. While this message was very possibly truly from God, it could have also been communicated poorly. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to scare me— maybe it was supposed to encourage me, but its delivery was just off.
  2. The idea that I needed to do something else to “deserve” my salvation was not from God. We cannot climb the metaphorical cave wall by our own strength. Only Jesus can reveal himself to us. He is the only source of grace, salvation, and deliverance. To tell ourselves otherwise is not the gospel. His grace is sufficient for all transgressions, and there is no amount of groveling, good behavior, or sweet-talk I can do to get any closer to him. Over the years, I’ve learned the best I can do is pray that he will make my heart soft and willing to receive his grace. 
  3. Just like God himself, this message is infinitely more complex than I imagined. God wasn’t  telling me to ask him for salvation again because I hadn’t done it right the first time. Through coming to know both God and myself better, I learned that His nature is not to condemn, not to burden, not to harm. Titus 3:4 speaks to His kindness because of Jesus’s mercy: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Now, seven years after the initial prayer, I find myself taking comfort in the message’s promise rather than shrinking away in fear of its meaning, knowing full well that God’s heart is not to hurt me.

The promise of that word to me is this: Knowing God is a process. Full wisdom does not fall upon our heads within moments of getting saved. God is infinite, and so too should be our understanding of him. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says this: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Just like this verse says, we always have so much to learn about God and his heart for us. He will only continue to reveal himself more, he will only increase, and if we continue to seek him, he will only become greater in our lives as we age. I know God far more intimately today than I did as a fifteen-year-old, because I have sought after his heart and his spirit, and he has only become clearer to me. 

Today, I’m convinced the prayer was an invitation from him to push deeper, to seek more than just the two-dimensional, static Jesus I had known for years. He was calling me to embrace him in his endless mystery. Only he could know how much I would come to know him in his fullness through things I would experience in the following years— my first heartbreak, my first job, moving ten hours away from home, meeting some of my dearest friends, and falling in love. Each one of those major milestones pointed me, in some way, back to his sovereignty in ways I could never have imagined that day at the retreat camp. God would take me—and still is—taking me to places, allowing me to meet people, and giving me experiences that will all point me back to him and his goodness. 

So, when I say that “Jesus is three-dimensional,” I mean this: he once was just a concept to me. An idea housed in the crevices of my brain, occupying my knowledge but not my heart. He was once simply a savior, not my Savior. He was once a kind figure, not my Friend, Protector, and Encourager. He is now all of these things to me. Where he once seemed dull and flat, by comparison he is now three-dimensional, large and real and huge, taking up space in my mind, heart, and body. In high school, I did not know that He is immeasurably more than we can ever ask or imagine. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:17-19: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

For every high schooler reading this, take heart: he will strengthen you by his Spirit. You will find yourself increasingly rooted in the fullness of his love. This takes time. Each day is a chance to remain faithful to what he says in his Word, to ask him for his wisdom, to invite the Holy Spirit to occupy space in your life. Allow yourself to treat Jesus like a friend. And by that I mean  don’t stand him up  if you wouldn’t stand up a friend. Be committed to making time for him, and in turn, you will know him deeply. Invite him in the miniscule problems in your life, the ones that feel tiny and insignificant, because I promise you he cares. 

In high school, I couldn’t have known how Jesus would reveal his kindness to me. I couldn’t have predicted the way he’d continually care for me. That’s the real treasure of faith— it is there, in the not-knowing, we get to look back and see how he worked. Trust him to do so in your own life. That’s how Jesus became a real, tangible, three-dimensional human being to me.

 

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