Walking with Jesus

Dear Jesus,

I wonder what it was like to hug you in person.

I can’t imagine the joy and peace and incredible comfort your friends must have felt to experience Your arms around them. Your brotherly high fives.

Oh to hear your hearty, warm, joyous laugh.

I know it delighted everyone around you.

I see the mothers’ smiles as You hold their children. As you beckon them to come to You and sit on Your lap. You let them play with Your hair and hold onto Your hands and make You into a human jungle-gym :).

Oh what joy!

To look into your piercing yet warm eyes and see the tangible love in them.

To see you look into my eyes and know that you know everything about me, yet you love me so deeply.

I look away, because I can’t hold Your gaze—it’s like fire—because You know everything about me.

You’re amazing. Wonderful.

I don’t want You to have to die for me.

But I know from someplace deep within me that I couldn’t change it happening, because without You dying for me, that I won’t be able to be with you forever in heaven.

And I long with an overwhelming  yearning deep inside of me to be with you all of my days.

So I see you as you hug the children and giggle with them. I see you lovingly send them back to their mothers with Your light shining in their eyes. Confidence. These precious ones know they are loved. You sure know how to love!

I see you hold your mother’s face in your hands and kiss her on the forehead goodbye.

I see you shake hands with your earthly father, and the two of you exchange a deep, sorrowful yet knowing look.

They know they won’t see you again in the same way here on earth.

The next time they see you, it will be as you carry the cross, My cross, to Calvary.

The scene shifts, and I see you as you sit with your disciples, your followers, your best friends. The ones who have been with you through everything. You have taught them and brought them up…their faith is small but to them it feels huge and strong.

I see how much You love them.

I watch with tears rolling down my face as you wash their dusty feet.

As You break the bread and hold up the wine as a sign of your body that will be broken and your blood that will soon be shed, my heart aches.

I watch Your disciples’ eyes and I know they don’t understand yet. They can’t. They don’t have a realm of understanding for it yet. My heart breaks as you break the bread. Tears fall as you sip the wine and pass it to your closest friends.

I want to yell, “Don’t do it! I’m not worth it!” but the words get stuck in my throat.

Oh, Jesus. The agony of knowing there is no other way, that You must die for me, it almost keels me over right here and now, but I do my best to keep my composure for now…knowing more tears will be shed in just a little while.

I watch Judas take from You as a sign that he is about to betray you. I see that look on Your face. What intense sadness You must feel. Your brother, Your friend, betrays you for a few coins, all for earthly, greedy gain. You know that he’ll regret it, but You also know this must be done.

Oh that there was another way. But Your Father’s will be done.

Next, I see You kneeling in the garden. Gethsemane.

You’re trembling and Your voice shakes a little as you pray.

I watch the great teardrops of blood roll down Your beautiful face, and I marvel at the intensity of what you must be feeling. Our human bodies react physically to how we feel, and for you to cry tears of blood, what intense feelings are You going through?

The sorrow and the desire that this cross might still be taken from You. You’re God, yes, but you’re also human, and no human wants to die.

But that’s not Your Father’s will. It must be done this way. It always had to be this way. It’s agony.

My jaw drops as I watch you accept this with grace and noble willingness. I see the love and the passion inside of You, so strong that I can’t even believe that You’re really willing and ready to do this. That You’re the Savior of this world already just by being God’s Son, and yet you’re allowing this to happen in order for sin’s power to be broken.

I can’t comprehend how You love us so much.

I watch the angel minister to You and encourage You. I see the resolve in Your eyes as You gaze up to heaven, telling Your Father that You will do it. That His will be done.

You are set apart.

You wake Your disciples, and I see their embarrassment because it is the third time they have fallen asleep.

I see their panic when they realize what is happening. That they are being betrayed and Jesus is being arrested.

I watch as one in disbelief, hardly able to accept what I’m seeing, as You are surrounded by soldiers, the garden lit with flaming torches and many angry and confused voices.

I watch Judas walk up to you and greet you with a kiss, as a friend would greet another.

I see the horror in Your disciples eyes as Your arms are grabbed hold of by soldiers. I see the questions burning in their minds and I see Peter, frightened, confused and angry, raise his sword and cut off that man’s ear.

I watch, mesmerized, and so do the soldiers who hold onto Your arms, as You tell your disciples not to fight, and you give the man a new ear.

No one knows what to do, and it’s as if time stands still for a couple seconds. Until the soldiers realize they have orders, and they drag you off with them.

I am numb.

I watch Your best friends run away from You. I see You pulled through the darkness amid a bobbing sea of torches heading for your trial.

I follow Your gaze and note Your sad eyes as You experience the devastating feeling of being betrayed and abandoned by those dearest to You.

I watch Your lips move and I know You are praying.

I feel my feet following at a distance.

This all seems so surreal and I can’t believe I’m watching this take place.

I see You in each of the courtrooms as You peacefully stand and state Who You Are.

You’re scoffed at and mocked, and I wish I could stand up for You right now.

But I know that at this time, it’s not my place.

It’s Your time to make history.

The crown of thorns is shoved onto Your head and I cry out, I can’t help it, as the blood begins to run down Your chiseled face. You’re in pain, but You endure everything without a word or a sound. That robe is thrown over You, and You’re presented as the King of the Jews.

It feels like a dream as the crowd screams to let Barabbas go. I can’t believe they wouldn’t choose You, after all You’ve done for them.

You’ve healed their sick, You’ve raised their dead, You’ve freed them from the chains of demons. You’ve loved their children and taught them truth and love.

Yet they hand You over to Pilate to be crucified.

My heart is numb with grief.

My brain can’t comprehend what is happening, and part of me wonders if I’ll ever truly, fully understand. Probably not, my brain couldn’t handle it, because You’re God, and I’m not.

Next I see You on the road as You carry the cross. Your back is slick with blood. You are so weak. As You struggle with the weight of the cross, You stumble and fall, landing hard on the harsh cobblestone street.

I bite my lip to keep from crying out loud.

Please, this must stop! He hasn’t done anything wrong! He’s Your Savior, not a criminal!

But then the cross is put on somebody else’s back, and You limp painfully toward the hill where You’re going to die.

The worst thing begins when You reach the top of that hill. The hill You made.

You’re thrown onto the cross. The centurions force Your arms outstretched, and You just lie there, gasping from pain. You don’t fight as Your legs are tied together.

I think I’m imagining it but I think Your breathing gets strained as You watch the centurion grab the nails.

I know You could free Yourself. I know all You’d have to do is say the word and You’d be free of the ropes, free of the cross.

But You don’t say a word. You just watch as the centurion places the first nail into Your hand and brings his arm up, preparing to strike.

I  see You make eye contact with him and I marvel at the quiet assurance in Your eyes, which flood with pain as he brings his arm down to drive the first nail through your skin.

I cry out and turn away, oh the sound of Your pain, the sound of metal through flesh into wood is the worst sound in the world.

My heart hurts, physically.

I cringe at the sound of the hammer, as the centurion moves from one hand to another and then drives the nails through Your feet. Your strong feet that have walked so much ground, that have encountered so much adversity, that are toughened and beaten up and yet have walked to this hill willingly.

I long to run to You, to comfort You, to pull You off of that cross.

Finally, the last bone-crunching nail is hammered into place.

Then Your cross is raised.

Blood streams from Your face, Your hands, Your feet.

I see You gasp for breath, Your body in shock as it is risen high on the hill in front of everyone.

This is such a shameful death. You aren’t wearing much and You are bleeding so much. You don’t deserve this in any way.

I am shocked when I look into Your pain-filled eyes and see them turn toward mine. You lock eyes with me and I see the love You still have for me in them.

I see the message in Your eyes loud and clear.

I love you. I do this for you. You are worth everything to me.

His words. His eyes. His wounds.

I can’t bear it.

Your eyes tear through my very soul, Jesus.

I can’t see You anymore through my tears, but I keep my eyes on You because I want You to know how much I love You and how I will always be faithful to You.

I watch You turn to the robbers on your right and left, and I see You loving them. That’s so like You, even in the midst of Your own pain, to see someone’s else’s pain, another whom You deeply love, and focus on them.

I see You mocked, but then I see one of them talking to You. He asks You something. I see You smile, even on the cross, even as You struggle to breathe and you gasp against the effort.

In great pain, I see You whisper to him. I watch as he breathes a sigh of relief and I see his soul prepare to leave heavenward.

Somehow I know I’ll see him one day in heaven. Already You have saved one. You are amazing. There is no one like You, Jesus.

I drop to my knees as the minutes tick by in agony.

My body shivers with every painful breath You take, knowing it might be Your last.

I can’t stand watching You die, Lord.

I don’t fully understand it with my earthly brain.

How could I have done this to You? How could You be willing to die for me?

I know this has to be necessary, somehow, or You wouldn’t be allowing this to happen.

You would come down off of that cross if there were a different way.

So now I know that You really will die for ME.

And my heart breaks in half.

As You look to the heavens, I hear You speak again. You’re forgiving those who crucified You.

You’re forgiving me for all I’ve done.

You look horrible. Your heads slumps and I hear your raspy breathing as Your lungs struggle for air, against the weight of gravity, against the weight of all the world’s agony. Your shoulders lower and it’s as if I see the weight of the world settle onto Your shoulders.

You lift Your face to the sky one last time, and Your eyes catch mine.

My breath catches. I see so many things in Your eyes. Your humanness. The body’s desperation in dying, of trying to fight for life. Your love and Your obedience to Your Father. You know this is right and You did this willingly for me.

As You give up Your last breath, I see finality in Your eyes. A resolute knowing – it is finished.

And I commit myself to follow You forever, through anything, because I know that no matter how hard it is, that anything is worth it to follow my King who laid down His life for me.

You had every right just to let me die.

But somehow You love me so much that you couldn’t allow that to happen.

My heart cries out in desperation. It really feels like it is breaking in half. My whole body feels like it is being shaken to its core.

Then I realize. The ground is actually shaking. The sky is roiling black and the clouds are like black fire.

I hear screams. I hear a ripping sound and watch in amazement as people run out of the temple, yelling, “The curtain! The curtain! It split in half!”

For the first time I grin. How can I smile, you ask me? Because I know in that moment, You did it. You made a way where there was no way and You did the impossible.

You died, giving up Your earthly body for every beautiful human being You have ever created. And in so doing, You saved each one of them.

You saved ME.

Then I remember, and my breath catches in my throat. “It’s going to take 3 days,” I hear you tell your disciples, “then this body will be raised to life.” They didn’t understand it then, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

As I sit on that hill with darkness swirling around me, grief threatens every breath as I watch them take your limp, broken body off of that cross as the crowd flees from the storm. I hold onto the glimmer of a memory. I grasp onto the slimmest hope in the truth of Your promise to Your best friends.

You said You’d conquer death. You said You’d bring freedom for the captives.

Three days later. It’s been a really long, agonizingly difficult three days.

So much grief. So much pain. Tension. Anger. Your best friends, your disciples, they simply don’t know what to do anymore. You came into their worlds and called them to follow You.

They left everything they had ever known to follow You.

They didn’t pay attention to the words You said to prepare them for this moment. They are numb. Hope seems crushed. The world is hushed.

The scene shifts again.

Suddenly, I am in the garden. I see the place they put You, in Joseph’s tomb.

The rock is so huge and heavy and well-guarded.

The ground begins shaking again. I barely hold my balance.

I watch as the guards suddenly freeze in place and fall to the ground as an angel robed in brilliant white rolls away the stone from where Your body has been placed.

I peek into your grave and see you lying there, rigid, cold and wrapped in linen.

Then I see You rise. My eyes grow huge.

Suddenly You are walking out of the grave. No longer bound by death.

A huge smile lights Your face as my eyes lock onto Yours. You laugh, a warm, delightful sound, as my eyes bulge and my mouth drops open.

“Hello, Beloved,” I hear You say.

My mouth and brain struggle for words, and all I can find myself saying is, “Jesus!” I rush into Your arms. You just hold me tightly and I feel You kiss the top of my head. You tip my chin so You can look into my eyes, brimming pools of love and peace and the deepest, sweetest joy.

“I did this for you,” You say.

My gaze wanders to Your hand holding my chin. Your solid, real hand. You’re not dead, You are very alive!

You let me take Your hands in mine and gaze at the holes, still wounds but healed.

You let my tears drop into your hands, then You reach up to wipe my cheek so gently I almost start crying again.

“Don’t cry, Beloved, rejoice! It is finished,” You say. “Death is defeated. Your sins are no more.”

I hear the crunch of footsteps behind me, knowing Jesus’ friends are coming to anoint His body in the grave, and they won’t find Him there.

Jesus is grinning. His whole body seems to glow with joy and the victory He has won for His precious creation.

“Go tell everyone about Me,” Jesus says, urging me to focus on His words because I can tell they are very important to Him. His gaze is like fire on my eyes. His passion burns with intensity. “Tell everyone what I have done for them. Tell them how much I love them. Tell them they’re so worth it. Tell them they matter.”

The fire from His eyes seeps into mine, merging with my very soul. His love is a seed buried deep within me, planted, rooted in strength in an instant. I know I will follow this Man forever. This Man who took on a human body but is somehow still God, a mystery that my brain tries to unravel but I simply cannot comprehend in its fullness.

My Creator, who became like me to suffer like me and die for me to save me from the chains of death. Because He couldn’t bear eternity without me.

That kind of love compels me to follow His call to go into the world and tell them about His deep love and desire for them. So they can be saved and know Him, too.

I hear His laugh as He says, “Go!”

So I go.

The staircase of faith

The countdown to home begins.
It doesn’t seem real.
In 84 days (12 weeks) I will be landing in the United States.
My feet will touch U.S. soil again.
I honestly can’t wait…
…but then again, I can.

My heart is so torn.
I can’t believe I’m on month 9 already.
Since the beginning of the Race, I’ve been looking forward to coming home.
Homesickness hit me extremely hard at Launch.
Which is crazy, because at that point, I hadn’t even left America yet.
I think it was the fact that I knew I was leaving home for so long, knowing I wouldn’t have the chance to return for 11 months.

Ever since I’ve left, I’ve had to fight to be present.
The feelings of homesickness have come and gone, and come and gone again.
It’s normal.
I knew from the beginning that the Lord had called me to this.
I knew I was supposed to go.
But the knowing doesn’t always help the feelings to go away :).

As my pastor said in his sermon that I was able to live-stream on Sunday,

Faith is taking that first step onto the staircase,
without knowing where the staircase goes.”

Faith honestly sucks sometimes.
It requires you to step out when you desperately don’t want to.
It means speaking up when you just want to be quiet.
It means going when you have no idea where you’re going to end up and you have no idea what’s going to happen.
It’s relying on that still, small voice inside of you that says, “Go.”
It’s trusting that even when it hurts—because God says it’s going to be okay and that He’ll be with us—that it really will turn out alright.

There are many reasons God calls us to go.
He wants to show us new things.
He wants to teach us.
He doesn’t want us to stay immature in our faith.

 

I’ve realized something lately—the devil wants to stop us from ever stepping out.
He wants to keep our faith immature.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 2,
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

And it hit me the other day.
So many people from home have been commenting on how mature we all look.
And it’s not because I’m getting older…even though that’s true, haha.
You can look at the pictures of us before the Race and compare them with the ones just recently taken…and maybe you’ll see it.

Month 1 – Dominican Republic
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Month 3 – Thailand
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Month 5 – Cambodia
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Month 6 – Tanzania
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Maybe we only look more tired.
But we’ve started noticing it in each other, and it’s not to float our own boats or toot our own horns.
It’s just taking note of something that has slowly become obvious.

There is a literal, physical change in every single one of our faces.
There’s a new maturity there that was absent before the Race.

Month 7 – Malawi
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Month 8 – Swaziland
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

And do you know what I just realized?
It’s because we’ve stepped out in faith. We went. We’ve been constantly stepping out in faith for 9 months now, and it’s changed us.
We’re not the same.
The reason is simpler than Oh, they’ve just traveled the world.
It’s because God called, and we went.
We stepped out in faith.
We left all we knew.
We got really uncomfortable.
And it was awesome and horrible and exciting and terrifying and amazing and challenging and perfect.

I’m still growing every day. I still have so much to learn.

But I feel the need to urge you:
Please, please step out in faith.
Don’t stay immature.
Don’t let satan keep you where you are.
Don’t ever stop seeking after more and more and more of the Lord and asking Him what He has for you.

I wasn’t looking to change. I’m honestly a bit scared to find out how much I’ve changed when I’m home, out of the community I’ve been immersed in for almost a year…I wonder what it will look like.

But there’s something about stepping out. There’s something about faith that slowly changes you. It’s not a bad thing. It’s the wildest ride you’ll ever find yourself on. But you must be willing to take that first step.

I promise that though it’s sure to be hard, it’s the most worth it thing you’ll ever do.

I’m with the King

So this afternoon I sat down with my Bible and a cup of coffee…it’s been a long few weeks and I just needed some time to myself. It’s raining outside, and sometimes these are the perfect days for rest. I felt like this time was just for me and God, and I really wanted it to be. I haven’t been doing a super great job at spending time with Him lately…so I just knew I needed some time to sit with Him, read His Word, and relax and soak Him in. Sometimes things that you’ve read over and over pop out at you differently all of the sudden, and today was one of those times.

I decided to read Romans 8. I won’t go into a ton of detail, but it was cool. 🙂

One thing that really stood out to me was where it says that through the Holy Spirit we are sons of God, “And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'” That’s like little kids running up to their fathers and saying, “Daddy! Daddy!” God wants that kind of relationship with us (I’ve been hearing this over and over lately, so that really resonated with me). But then it goes on to talk about us being co-heirs with Christ Jesus. Jesus is God’s son, and through Jesus’ death on the cross, when He defeated sin and rose from the dead in victory (can I get an Amen!), that in that moment, when we accept that gift, we become sons and daughters of God, beloved brothers and sisters to Christ, and become God’s heirs. WHOA baby. Hold up a sec…say whaaaa…? That’s incredible.

So then I was just sitting there and soaking that in. The idea ran around my head for a bit…Jesus as my big brother, the big brother I never had. The one to tell me that I am beautiful and cherished and that He loves me and will protect me like any good big brother would his little sister.

I like that idea…it makes me smile. 🙂

Then something popped into my head. A vision, a thought, a whisper from my Savior – a story, a dream, a poem of sorts. I wrote it into my journal and felt like I also needed to share it with you.

Here goes.

[Him]
Every part of you is mine.
You are perfect – made in My image.
You are the daughter of the King,
beloved sister and co-heir with Christ.
You enrapture me with your beauty.
You can walk confidently into any room,
knowing I am beside you, walking with you.
Always with you.
I’ll never leave you.

Then this came.

[Me]
I walk into a room full of people dressed in finery, and I instantly feel unworthy to be there.
I don’t fit in.
“I’m with the King,” I tell those who ask, which should boost my confidence,
but the more people ask, the more I question whether I should be there at all.
I’m not worthy. I don’t fit in. My dress isn’t pretty enough.
Then it happens.
The dancing begins.
But they won’t let me into the ballroom, because no one believes me and the King is nowhere to be seen.
I’m blocked from going inside, and I begin to doubt everything about myself.
Who am I to think I’m worthy of love and forgiveness?
I stand in front of the doors to the ballroom, confused, ashamed, and alone.
The guards ask me to move aside, and that’s when I feel His hand slip into mine
and the other fit tenderly around my waist.
“No, let her through,” he says tenderly, His eyes locked onto mine,
His beautiful face smiling in delight that I am here. His presence and command over the room is so immediate that everything and everyone stops and stares in amazement
as He takes my hand and says, “She’s with me.”
His gaze captivates me, my feet float on air as I follow Him onto the dance floor.
Nothing else matters but Him now.
“I’m so glad you came,” He says. “You are stunning. You are perfect.”
As He holds me close on the dance floor, His eyes sparkle and He flashes a grin.
“And best of all, you’re mine!” His smile grows bigger as he says,
“You’re beautiful, beloved. I am the King and I love you. I have redeemed you.
Be bold and confident in that, beloved. I am always with you.”
I can’t speak, so I nod and put my head to His chest, no words needed, and together, we dance.

 

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

The song below fits this perfectly. “I Love the King” by Beth Croft.

%d bloggers like this: