“Can you be 110% transparent with me?” a friend recently texted. “Am I always looking for pity?”
I sighed and said a quick prayer before responding. I sensed her inquiry had been prompted by tension with another friend, whose candor was sometimes bracing. Whether you asked about a new hairstyle, an old boyfriend or the color you’d painted your living room, you could count on Vera to tell you what she really thought.
And that wasn’t always a bad thing, either. Underneath Vera’s gruffness was a genuine concern for others, and a desire to see them make the best choices possible. In this case, she was probably at her wits’ end with the self-sabotaging decisions our mutual friend had been making for years. Crisis routinely followed crisis in a kind of spin cycle that drained all involved; only when our friend periodically returned to practicing her faith was there any respite.
Perhaps that’s what frustrated Vera (and, quite honestly, me) most: we struggled to understand how our friend, having tasted the peace offered by life in Christ, could still revert to former ways that wounded her so, and that she admittedly despised.
Vera and I could only conclude that what hindered our friend most was her willingness to settle for “just enough Jesus.”
It’s easy (and absolutely essential) to run to the Lord when we’re backed into a corner. Illness, addiction, financial lack, broken relationships can and should drive us to our knees. But after the tears have dried and our panic has faded, we’re tempted to wave away the Lord’s helping hand: “Thanks, God; I can take it from here” — as if the Almighty were a tow truck driver we’d hired just to get us to our usual mechanics: the world, the flesh and the devil.
The pattern is all too familiar; indeed, Moses warned the ancient Israelites to “be careful not to forget the Lord, your God, by failing to keep his commandments and ordinances and statutes which I enjoin on you today: lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built fine houses and lived in them, and your herds and flocks have increased, your silver and gold has increased, and all your property has increased, you then become haughty of heart and forget the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that house of slavery” (Deut 8:11-14).
Indeed, we are called to a full-time, all-in commitment to our Maker: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Deut 6:5).
The nine lepers who failed to give thanks to Jesus for curing them missed out on lasting healing. Their cleansed flesh would one day perish anew in the tomb, but the soul of the grateful Samaritan was redeemed forever: “Then (Jesus) said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you’” (Lk 17:19).
When we only want “just enough Jesus,” we’re delinquent in matters of both earth and heaven — quick to say that God forgives us, but refusing that same forgiveness to others; proclaiming God’s goodness, but neglecting to share his wealth with those in most need; accepting the gift of eternal life, but failing to shoulder the daily crosses through which we attain it.
Our evangelical brothers and sisters liken this tactic to purchasing spiritual “fire insurance”: having “just enough Jesus” to keep one’s soul out of hell, but in the end, not enough to secure a true place in heaven, in the depths of his heart.
An abundant life requires abundant commitment, a full surrender to Christ. Seek Jesus, then, not in part but in whole. In his fullness — “a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing” (Lk 6:38) — is the true bread for which our souls and societies hunger, the only food that can save and sustain us.
Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast and author of the forthcoming book “Stations of the Cross for Sexual Abuse Survivors.” Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.
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