In the Bible in One Year app, I recently read a commentary that shared an amazing story about Mother Teresa. Her feet were so deformed that some wondered whether she had leprosy. One of her sisters explained, “her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” As the commentary concluded, “years of loving her neighbor as herself has deformed her feet!”
In this blog, I have continually defined leadership as the art of being someone worth following. And given the example above, it’s no wonder Mother Teresa was adored by millions. Her love was based on others first. She was fully loved by Jesus, so she was able to share out of her abundance — and there is no greater love than this!
The World’s Greatest Demonstration of Love
This week is Holy Week in the Christian calendar. It is the week where Christ-followers across the world mourn on Good Friday and celebrate the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning. It is a time of reflection, worship, and Sabbath. Most of all, it is the world’s greatest demonstration of love.
My commitment to you, the reader, has always been to maintain transparency and authenticity. I want to be transparent about my life, even to the point of vulnerability. If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you should see a demonstration of my many imperfections shared through these posts.
You should also get a sense of what makes me who I am. I have not been shy about sharing my love for Jesus. My identity starts and ends here. While I am always honest that there is much I cannot explain, I can attest that my life utterly changed when I began following Jesus.
My late teens and early twenties were characterized by a pursuit of popularity and pleasure. I was centered on myself, and I hurt some people along the way, including myself. Over the years, the darkness became less figurative in nature. By the time I was in college, the nights seemed to increase in length. I was “living my best life,” as some like to say these days, but all the parties and hookups left me feeling hopeless. It was not what I had signed up for. As I would come to read later in the Bible, I was gaining the whole world but losing my soul in the process.
God is Closer than You Think
Then I saw the light. This time I mean it figuratively, as I did not actually see a light. But through the encouragement of a girl I was trying to date in my early twenties, I started attending a church in the Chicago suburbs during one college summer break. At the first service I attended, the pastor wrote on a flip chart the phrase, “God is closer than you think.” He then said that regardless of what was happening in our lives, God was closer than we thought. This statement shocked me. “No he isn’t,” I thought. Yet, I could not shake it. So I started a process of seeking.
I kept going to that church. I also began reading the Bible. While I grew up in a Christian household and thought I was a “Christian,” reality was different. I may have been quasi-religious, thinking that if I did “enough” good things, maybe I would be accepted? But in reality, I was not following Jesus. Please note that I am not saying this from a place of judgment — I am just saying that I was like the student sitting at the back of the lecture hall. I knew a few of the bumper stickers phrases, but I was not putting them into practice, or even putting them on my car. I knew of Jesus, but I was not his student. I was checking the religious boxes at Christmas and Easter, but I was living my own life. I was Lord — He was not. It’s no wonder I did not feel worthy because my life was not adding up to much.
I know this may be sounding too spiritual to some but stay with me. The reality for me is that I soon found Jesus. This was the light, per se. Finding Jesus meant that I did not have to do “enough” to be valued, I was good enough already. This did not mean that I could or should continue to go on living life the way I had. After all, that life had led to some painful experiences — I later realized that while God always loves us, he does allow us to experience the consequences of our actions. And I thank God that He allowed me to do that, because I did not want to live there!
As I began reading the stories of Jesus’ life in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John my life began to change. The world had been telling me to pursue my own success and my own kingdom, and find pleasure wherever I could. While I cannot speak for any other reader of this blog, this equation was not working for me.
All Can Come In
What struck me about Jesus was how countercultural He was and is both then and now. He said that in order to find your life, you have to lose it. It is better to turn your cheek, build others up, and go the extra mile with someone even when it costs you. His way is the narrow path, not the wide path.
Moreover, He was (and still is) the only one who says ALL can come in. There are no preconditions. He lifted up women, people of different nationalities, the poor, and children — in short, everyone. It is indescribable in totality. It is amazing in its depth. It is inclusivity in totality.
It was what I fell forever in love with.
He is the ultimate one that I want to follow.
But what about that empty tomb? Do we just have to “trust” and go on “blind faith?” That sounds pretty foolish to me. If someone can prove the tomb was not empty I think we should all have a talk.
But having said this, I also think history leaves even more puzzling questions for us to consider: Like, why would Jesus’ most trusted apostles propagate a lie that would (and most cases did) cost them their lives in painful and brutal ways? Remember, they did not claim to believe in the resurrection, they said they had seen the resurrection. I can understand people dying for something they believe in, but dying for a lie? I guess I do not have the faith to believe that, but you have to make up your mind for yourself.
Before closing, I try to go to great lengths to be open to ALL readers of this blog. I do this because I think that is what Jesus would want me to do! ALL are welcome in King Jesus’ kingdom! There are no “infidels.” There are only sinners like me that have been redeemed and freed to love others. There is no better love. Hence, please consider the above nothing more than my adoration for that love.
My story culminated with a public baptism in August of 2005. My sister Charlotte and I were baptized in the waters of Lake Michigan. I share this because I often think of how different my life is now, compared to then, when I fly back to Chicago over the lake. Jesus’ love for me is bigger than even that! The same can be said for you.
This is what Mother Teresa knew to be true as well, which is why her deformed feet were such a small price to pay for the love she knew. Similarly, I pray that we model this kind of love for others because there is no better kind.