A few years ago this image came across my computer screen. I thought it was comical at first, but then I started to realize it was pure genius. It’s pure genius because it is a perfect example of my life growing up in church. I grew up knowing all the right answers about the church, Jesus, and the Bible. At times, I walked around thinking how great I was because I knew all the right answers.
In seventh and eighth grade I participated in a competition called Bible Bowl. If you’ve never seen a competition, click here to check it out. It’s an academic competition to see who knows the Bible better than the other team. I truly believe it started with good intentions, but no one, not even my Bible Bowl coaches realized I was only in it for the fame and millions of bonus points it promised. I wasn’t even a follower of Jesus yet. I honestly had a desire to prove how smart I was and how great of a competitor I could be. My main goal was to crush my competition with my Bible knowledge. I’m pretty sure that’s why God wrote the Bible in the first place right?
The problem was, I had no relationship with Jesus. I only knew the facts of the Bible. I could push the button pretty fast, recite part of the Bible and come out victorious. I really believed that knowledge of the Bible was good enough.
After a short career on the Bible Bowl circuit and realizing the promise of millions of bonus points was empty, I retired. The problem still was that I had no clue what I was supposed to do with this Bible knowledge. I had no clue that this knowledge meant little to nothing in everyone else’s mind. It also did not actually make me right with God. I knew where to find the right answers. I knew the process other people should follow to be made right with God.
I still found myself awkwardly standing, like the dog in the picture, in the presence of God. I volunteered at my church. I attended church all the time. I read my Bible but still had no idea how to act. I thought I had to perform for God. I thought I had to go through all the ‘right’ motions and have all the ‘right’ answers.
I was 17 years old when I finally had a real come to Jesus conversation. I found myself on the back porch on a spring night. It was past midnight on a Wednesday. My student ministry pastor had just given one of the clearest explanations of Jesus and grace. I remember my emotional response to the message. I can remember the smell of the building and the feeling of the wind as I drove home that night. As I sat on the back porch alone, I lit my cigar and cracked open the beer bottle I stole from my step dad’s stash. Still not knowing what to do, I asked God that if all of what I had heard was really true, then what’s next? What should I do? I was still like that dog in the picture above, trying to be comfortable standing in the hammock, instead of resting in the hammock.
After asking God what to do, He simply responded: “Rest in my grace”. One of the parts of the Bible I read through that night was Matthew 11. One of the verses in Matthew 11 says, “Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls”. That night, I finally found the proper way to rest in the presence of Jesus. It wasn’t more knowledge of the Bible or emotionally driven worship songs. It was simply resting in the presence and grace of Jesus. He bore the punishment for my sins. He endured hardships beyond measure so I could make right with God. The issue we all need to face is that our personal sin separates us from the God who created us. God so loved the world that He sent his son, Jesus to the world, to save humanity.
My prayer this Easter season is that we will all be able to rest in the grace Jesus offers us. Enjoy the hammock as it was designed to be enjoyed. Don’t just simply fit in it, but rest in the hammock.