My An Arkie's Faith column from the October 5, 2022, issue of The Polk County Pulse.
It is early Sunday morning, and I am writing an article at my desk. It is quiet in the house, with only the sound of my fingers on the computer keyboard. My dogs have been fed and are now curled together, sleeping on the floor of the living room. The stillness of the morning is interrupted by the ringtone of my cell phone. "Who can be calling me on Sunday morning," I thought as I answered the phone.
"This is your cousin from Michigan," the voice on the other end of the line said. "We are in Branson for a few days and would like to come see you." As we visited for a few minutes, we tried to remember when we had last seen each other. We couldn't pinpoint the exact time, but it was when we were both young children. Before we ended the call, we made arrangements to meet in a few days.
As we walked out onto Little Italy's back patio, I saw my Daddy seated at a table with a couple. I knew that it must be my cousin and her husband. After greeting each other and the small talk people engage in when meeting someone for the first time in years, we ordered our food. While waiting for our food, we enjoyed the fresh garlic rolls and continued our conversation. Even though we hadn't seen each other since childhood, conversation flowed easily.
We had so many topics of mutual interest that there was never a hint of awkwardness or a lull in the conversation. We reminisced about my grandparents and my cousin's dad. We talked about our kids and grandkids, sharing photos from our phones. Stories and remembrances filled the air and enveloped us like a warm hug. We had a lifetime to catch up on and far too little time.
After we finished our meals, we continued to visit. The sun had gone down, and there was a fall chill in the air. Everyone was cold, but we didn't want the evening to end. There were still stories to be told and remembrances shared. As the evening ended, we determined we had to see each other again. My cousin and her husband talked about coming back to Mena for a more extended visit, and My wife and I said we would like to find a time to visit northern Michigan. After a long goodbye, we said goodnight.
Sometimes you meet a person and just click; you're comfortable with them, like you've known them your whole life, and you don't have to pretend to be anyone or anything. That's the way it was for me with my cousin. Even though we know that we met as children, neither one of us have any real memories of the other one. But now we have a real connection. It is a beautiful feeling to make that kind of connection with someone you haven't known.
Christian author, John Eldredge, writes: "we're told that you can have a relationship with Jesus, but most Christians don't experience Jesus personally like that. They just don't. We honor Him. We respect Him. We worship Him. We don't experience Him and His personality like we do the people we love the most in our lives." But Jesus longs for a real connection with us.
When Jesus talked to his disciples, he told them, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." John 14:23 (NKJV) Jesus wants a friendship and intimacy with you as if he was living in your home. He doesn't want to only visit with you for an hour a week with a large group of people. He longs for personal, intimate time with you.
In Revelation 3:20 (ESV), Jesus says to you and me, "I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." And in John 15:15 (AMP), he says, "I do not call you servants any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you My friends, because I have revealed to you everything that I have heard from My Father."
Some Christians feel that friendship with Jesus seems too familiar. I've heard the idea stated, "Jesus is not our friend; he is our King." But we don't have to choose, because both are true. Jesus is our King, and he wants to be our most trustworthy friend. But does relating to Jesus as a friend diminish his authority in our lives? No, because when he calls us friends, he is still our King. He said, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." John 15:14 (NKJV) Our obedience doesn't earn friendship but proves our friendship with him.
The 18th-century American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, wrote, "Whatsoever there is, or can be, that is desirable to be in a friend, is in Christ, and that to the highest degree that can be desired." Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, and he loves us more deeply than anyone else could. We are closer to his heart than anyone has ever been to ours.
God created us for friendships. He never intended for us to be alone. "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)
Gentle Reader, Jesus chose us as friends. He died for us as friends, he wants us to trust him as our friend, and he will remain our friend for eternity. Maybe it has been too long since you had a beautiful evening spending time in conversation with Jesus. Perhaps it's time for you to reconnect with Him. He is standing at the door and knocking. Will you let Him in?