I’m a lawyer who loves Jesus. But before I moved to Atlanta I hated Jesus. To me he was a myth. A crutch that Christians used to shackle people with beliefs that were both evil and stifling. I was a free thinker. I was reasonable. And I wanted no part in a pretend god that seemed hateful, petty and morally inferior to my own beliefs.
That all changed on June 13, 1994. I was studying for the bar exam and decided I’d prove my brother wrong about Jesus being God. My brother Joshua was a born again Christian. Three years earlier, he claimed he met Jesus in Alaska. He also claimed Jesus had cured his asthma.
Prior to Alaska, Joshua had been an asthmatic for over 14 years. Every morning he would wheeze upon waking. And for 14 years he used an inhaler at least twice a day. But after asking Jesus to cure him, his asthma disappeared within 24 hours.
Joshua was different in other ways. While he still had a lot quirks that reminded me of the old Joshua, I noticed that he was slower to anger, more quick to listen and less likely to be pushy and interrupting. He was also more honest than ever before.
I knew my brother sincerely believed Jesus cured his asthma. And that Jesus or no, I couldn’t explain why his lifelong asthma had left him at age 23. But I wasn’t ready to seek out this God of his.
I was not out for goodies and treats. If God was a cosmic bully who could spin out galaxies but enjoyed damning people to hell, then I wanted nothing to do with him. God had to be both BIGGER and BETTER than me. Anything else wasn’t worth praying to. Even if it meant I would be punished for not knowing him.
And so I told my brother “I would rather commit suicide than pray to someone who sends everyone to hell but the scant few who believe in him.”
Joshua knew my struggles. He knew I was prone to anger and rage at the mere mention of Jesus. And He kept telling me that Jesus is not just powerful. He’s also very good!
So Joshua dared me to test it. He urged me to make a prayer where I earnestly seek Jesus with all my heart. That I admit to Jesus I’ve made mistakes in my life and that I ask him to reveal himself to me in a way I can understand. Aside from that my prayer was to have no other conditions. If God was bigger than me, then I had to humble myself. I had to be ready for him to meet me in his way, not mine.
But even the notion of praying to such an evil personage got me into a rage. As a Jew, I was very sensitive to the past atrocities done in Jesus’ name. To me, this Jesus was disgusting. And the people who prayed to him were at best misguided. Or at worst, they were hateful hypocrites.
So my plan was to prove my brother wrong. I would test it by making an earnest prayer for Jesus to reveal himself. And when he didn’t I would dismiss him and move on with my life.
On that day in June, I prayed in the shower for Jesus to make Himself known to me. And He did!
I didn’t care about heaven or hell. I just wanted life in the here and now. I also asked for integrity for I knew I had none.
My prayer was far from typical. I had no prior experience on how to pray. But I knew I had to start off honest and humble. And to do the best I could do. My prayer went something like this:
OK Jesus, this is what I want from you. I want to walk the yellow brick road of integrity. I want to be good to myself and good to others. If there’s an afterlife, it’s a freebee. I want to live in the here and now.
And I don’t want to lose my intelligence like those crazy Christians. I don’t know why babies die in fires or are molested by Catholic priests, but if you’re God you can show me.
And with the water dripping off my back, Jesus answered me right then and there. Right in the shower. Suddenly there was an unexplained peace that squelched all the runaway thoughts in my head. Normally these thoughts were like static. An ever present swarm of fears, imaginary confrontations or concerns that would nip at me throughout the day.
In an instant they were gone. I could think clearly! Now I was alert and focused and full of peace. It was like a beer buzz except I could think with precision and absolute clarity. I was actually smarter! More able to process things, not less. And I was immensely relieved to be free from all the mental clutter.
I may have said aloud “What is this?” And I heard a voice (not audible) say “This will be here 7 days.” I knew immediately “this” was the peace I felt. And to my amazement it lasted for about a week, nonstop.
If you had asked me right then and there if I was a Christian, I’d have said no. All I knew was that this Jesus was for real. He met me in the shower. And He gave me 7 days of peace. I had prayed to the creator of the Universe. And He answered me.
But meeting Jesus was not the same as knowing Jesus. I had so many questions. One thing I knew was that I didn’t need a new set of DOs and DON’Ts. I was in no hurry to become a “Christian.”
So who was this Jesus? Was He for or against me? And how was I supposed to relate to Him? Was it all about religious rituals? Or was it more like being with a close friend?
Since then I’ve gotten plenty of answers. But I’m still a work in progress. Over time I came to know that Jesus not only loves me, He likes me! Jesus wants me to succeed. And like a friend He wants to spend time with me. He enjoys making me smile. And though He’s the King of the Universe, He’s got a great sense of humor. He cares about even the tiniest things in my life. For love remembers the details.
My relationship with Jesus is ongoing. And it didn’t come easy. He took me through some extremely painful experiences. And I was a slow learner. It took me almost ten years to love Him! Before that I wanted to obey Him. But I was unable to love Him.
Through decades of His love, His mercy and His grace, I’ve now come to know He’s more than just good. Jesus is actually worth loving!
So with all He’s done in my life, I want to please Him. And to show others who He is and how they too can delight in Him.