I’m not asking if you love Jesus—that’s an easy answer. After all, most of us love Jesus “for the Bible tells us so.” I want to know if you like him. If, deep down, he is your person, the friend you’d invite to coffee, the guy you’d call and spill all your heartaches to, the buddy you’d share playlists with.
Do you like Jesus?
It’s an awkward question regarding current Christian lingo, but it’s crucial.
There are plenty of people I love, but I love them only because the Bible tells me that I should. I prefer to love them as one might love the Grinch, with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole. I will never invite them to coffee, I will permanently silence their social media posts, I would never dare share my secrets with them, and they would surely turn up their noses at a glance of my rap music shuffle.
Truthfully, I love these people… but I. Don’t. Like. Them.
Humans have mastered loving others with gritted teeth, slapping a simple “only cause I have to” sticker on the relationship, and walking away with the notion that they are successful in abiding by the Golden Rule, so I’ll ask again: do you like Jesus?
Do you like him enough to stay when it’s hard? When he doesn’t heal your sickness or repay vengeance as you’d please? Do you like him enough to surrender your wants, trudge through the trials, and absorb all the world’s hurt?
Do you like Jesus?
If you aren’t sure of the answer, that’s okay. It’s a heavy, loaded query you’ll have to ponder for some time, maybe even wrestle with in your prayer life. But for now, let’s consider three ideas that will hint at your answer:
You Look for Him in Familiar Places
I’m a 1940s guru; I read nothing but WWII historical fiction and wish finger-waving hairstyles were still socially acceptable. So, naturally, I’m a Billie Holiday fan. Most notably, I love her song, “Old Familiar Places.”
The first lyrics read:
I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees
The wishing well
I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you
When we love a man enough to like him, we look for him in the mundane. It’s not just butterflies in our stomachs, but it’s now the hint of pine trees that remind us of his aftershave. It’s the touch of blue on a little boy’s collared shirt that reminds us of his eyes. It’s scents, sights, and smells we see each day that now carry magic because we like someone—and we like them enough to adore them, to dare love them, to vow wreckless faithfulness to that special someone until the day we die.
Do you find Jesus in the lazy wildflowers swaying in the breeze? Do you see his goodness in how a coffee shop patron kindly accepts her coffee that it took a bit too long for the new barista to get just right? Do you notice Jesus in the beauty of the radio music birthed by violin strings and choir harmonies?
If we assume that we truly like Jesus just because we are called to love him, we might miss out on the simple ways to find his grace, beauty, and delight in mankind’s daily routine.
Do you look for Jesus in all the familiar places?
You Invite Him into Your Chaos
Odds are, there are plenty of women in your life–small group friends, distant family friends, work acquaintances–we love because, again, we are called to. But we wouldn’t dare trust most of these ladies with our deep, dark secrets, with a list of mental health meds we take to function, with story after story of how many times we were emotionally abused by a significant other. We love plenty of people we don’t extend trust to. We love loads of humans we wouldn’t dare invite into our chaos. But if we love Jesus enough that we dare to truly like him, we’ll trust him enough to show him our darkest side.
Again with lyrics, I want to share a few stanzas of Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side”:
There’s a place that I know
It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away
Or will you stay
Even if it hurts
Even if I try to push you out
Will you return?
And remind me who I really am
Please remind me who I really am
Everybody’s got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody’s a picture perfect
But we’re worth it
You know that we’re worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?
Few people see the worst of us, and often, it’s not because we are snotty or prideful but because we have adapted to this practice of distancing ourselves as a defense mechanism. Likely, we trusted a person too much before, and they manipulated our weak spots. They gossipped about the details we dared to share. They scoffed at the struggle we conveyed to them. They gave every reason to never share another deep thought with another human being.
I’ve been there. I get you.
But in your tribe, in that small circle of people you trust, do you count Jesus as one of them? Is he your top go-to when you want to meltdown about walking away from an abusive relationship, or when you want to wail that it’s unfair you’re forced to take mental health meds to live normal, or when you want to holler and throw hairbrushes across the room because you were wrongfully skipped over for the work promotion?
Jesus longs to cohabitate with you and your chaos. And if you like him enough to trust him, you should let him see your darkest side. He’s not scared of it, not ashamed of it, and will never run away from you. Instead, he’ll allow that dark place to see his light, goodness, and hope. He’ll allow you to find healing, the sort of healing human friends can never offer.
You’re Willing to Contend with Him
If you don’t like someone enough to care about your relationship with them, you don’t put up a fight when you see trouble coming.
I love my husband, Josh Garland, with all of my being, but I didn’t truly like him until about two years into our marriage. Between his career change, financial burdens, and my new diagnosis of OCD, our first few years were tainted with arguments, hurt, frustration, and confusion. I was so angry, bitter, and confused that I didn’t want to like Josh; I didn’t want him to be my knight in shining armor. I was just fine rescuing myself. I could take care of things on my own.
But I couldn’t. And eventually, with God’s grace, my mental health meds, and his schooling coming to an end, I discovered that healthy contention, the art of healthily arguing, is not only necessary but is a surefire sign that you like the other person. You care about what’s standing in between the both of you enough to address the problem and commit to both of you working through it together.
Liking someone means showing up for awkward fights, even those you don’t start, even those you think you can manage without. Why? Because you admire who they are on such a deep level that you want them to stay even when things are hard. You want them to understand your point of view, and you want to understand theirs.
In short, you want who they are for all the days of your life.
Do you like Jesus enough to wrestle with him when convictions are pressing on your soul? Do you love him enough to dare ask him why he allowed tragedy to happen? Do you love him enough to fight for him, even if the fight is a flawed contention you waged?
Is craving God in such a deep way not what David pleaded for all his days too?
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, NIV)
I’ll ask again, friend: do you like Jesus? Not do you love him, not do you owe your life to him because the Bible tells you so, but do you like him?
For more on liking Jesus, check out Peyton’s newest book: Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, Where Exhaustion & Exile Meet God.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages
Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves showcasing God’s beauty from ash. Check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, Where Exhaustion and Exile Meet God, to discover how your cup can overflow—even in dry seasons. Meanwhile, follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland for more insight into her writing and the terrors of raising gremlin dogs.