The other day I came across an old journal I kept as a kid. Between pages filled with 1992 Houston Astros starting lineups and love letters I wrote but never sent to a girl named Lauren, I devoted an entire page to five words:
Jesus is all I need.
I was struck by how much my faith has changed over the years. I would never write or say something like that anymore. I'd like to think I've grown beyond describing my whole theology with a phrase that fits on a bumper sticker.
In college there was this girl. For weeks I'd tried so hard to get her attention, or her number, or a kiss. I was completely taken with her. So, being the natural charmer that I am, I followed her everywhere. You know, like a stalker.
When she'd had enough of my stalking, I'll never forget the condescension in her voice when she looked at me and said,
You need Jesus.
Translation: Get some help and leave me alone.
I'd heard those words before. Like the time I blamed my high school English teacher's cruel behavior on her menstrual cycle - in front of my teacher and the entire class. I was in 11th grade, and going through a really hard time. She and the school counselor sat me down and said, "Eric, your father is a preacher, you should know better. You need Jesus."
So often when Christian people say You need Jesus, they make it sound like an insult. You need Jesus has become the Christian equivalent of You're a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Still, I can't deny I am a few fries short of happy. There's always been an emptiness in me - an unmet need or something. The result is an urgent, yearning sensation in my soul...an undeniably strong feeling that something is missing in my life.
I don't always feel that way, usually just whenever I stop long enough to be bored. And over the years, whenever the silent stillness gives way to this dreadful sense of void, I've sought to fill the emptiness in any number of (often contradictory) ways.
I need some music.
I just need a little peace and quiet.
What I need is a new computer / phone / TV / (insert random tech gadget here).
I need to disconnect from technology and read more books!
I need my wife to be more affectionate.
I need my wife to give me some space!
What I really need is a beer.
I've got to stop drinking beer.
I could write a better sermon if I had better coffee.
I could write a better sermon if I had better coffee. (yes I meant to share that one twice)
I need to go outside and be with people.
I need to go back inside and get away from people.
If I had this or that I'd be all set.
The hardest truth I've come to is that, in my darkest hour, when nothing seems right, no amount of coffee or noise or affection or solitude will give me what I need. What I need is for Jesus' promises to be true. I need his resurrection, and nothing else.
I said it twenty years ago. Ten years ago I laughed at the thought. Now I'm back where I began.
Jesus is all I need.