Estimated reading time: 5 minutes:-)
Yesterday, I got back from summer camp.
I’ve never actually been to summer camp before. I heard a lot about really pumped pastors, sleep deprivation, questionable camp food, and constant stimulation beforehand, but going into it I didn’t have many expectations. To be honest, I’d always thought camp was a fluffy emotional experience that happens once a year to fire students up, but doesn’t have a ton of lasting power. I was a little skeptical.
And while some of these stereotypes and expectations were correct, a lot of them were different than I expected. The camp food was actually good (surprisingly). The pastor was even more hyped than I expected. And not all of camp was a fluffy emotional experience.
I didn’t learn a ton of new information this last week (the pastor kept the messages aimed towards new believers the whole time), but I was reminded about a lot of important things during the week. And I learned one incredible thing about Jesus. That’s what I want to share with you today.
If you’ve been to camp, you know they usually designate a specific time of each day as quiet time to spend in the word. This is what I was most excited about. It’s hard for me to find a lot of free time each day to read the Bible and talk with Jesus. I love to do it, and I want to do more of it. But it’s hard to get more than 15 minutes. At camp, I got to spend half an hour, 45 minutes, sometimes a full hour just with God. It was awesome.
There was this spot I loved. I like to be alone when I have quiet time, like really alone, because I like to read the Bible and pray out loud. And I don’t love having an audience. So I hiked quite a ways across camp on the first morning and found two benches facing each other in the middle of the woods.
There were pine trees all around, their needles blanketing the ground, and bunches of bluebells growing around the benches. I took a seat on one of them and looked up into the trees. It was early morning, so the rising sun streamed through the branches and made shafts of light that rested on the forest floor. For that moment, I sat still, listening and watching. Bugs clicked in the trees and the rumble of cars hummed in the distance. What a beautiful balance, I thought.
Then, I looked at the bench.
Now, I didn’t have a vision, but I have quite the wild imagination, so immediately I imaged Jesus sitting across from me. And then I started praying as if He was right there, sitting with me and talking with me.
I think it’s so easy to forget that Jesus is with us. Because He’s not a physical being with us right now, it’s super easy to slip into the mindset that we’re talking to a presence that doesn’t empathize, understand, or hear us when we pray. But this is far from the truth.
Here’s the thing: Jesus is the king of the universe. He was there at creation, He designed each and every one of us, He rules all of time and is everlasting. He deserves all respect and honor and glory and should be taken seriously. But, He’s also our best friend. He empathizes with our weaknesses, because He was human himself. He is our lover, first in our hearts, our go-to. And He’s real.
One day at camp, my youth pastor’s wife and I were walking to morning worship when we got into a conversation about a guy who had lunch with Jesus. She told me about someone she heard of who felt like God was calling him to just go have lunch with God. So the guy listened to God’s voice the whole time, totally engaged and joyful even though he was seemingly eating alone. It confused the waitress, which turned into a gospel conversation.
I thought that story was pretty awesome, so I tried it myself to a certain extent. I grabbed some hot tea to start my morning, sat by those two benches, and started talking with Jesus like He was right there, looking at me and talking with me. I listened too, just like you do in any conversation. Conversation isn’t a monologue, and prayer shouldn’t be either. And man, it was so cool.
Then, it started carrying over to worship.
Every morning and evening while we were worshiping, I found I had a hard time focusing on the lyrics sometimes. You know, when you know a song, you just sing the words without thinking about what they mean. It just happens. But when I imagined Jesus standing up front, or standing beside me–when I imagined my worship as singing a song directly to Him for Him and about Him–it changed everything about worship for me.
Suddenly, there was power behind what I sang. Meaning behind the lyrics. And it made me fall in love with Jesus so much more.
After that, I couldn’t seem to get rid of Jesus.
I know that sounds silly. Jesus is with every one of His children for every moment in every day. But I don’t think we realize it. I didn’t really think about Jesus’s presence so much before. And now, I can’t stop seeing Him everywhere.
Now, Jesus isn’t just a nice thought in my heart.
Jesus is with me, resting a hand on my shoulder when I worship. He’s there, sitting in front of me while I pray. He’s there when I’m alone, when I’m resting, when I’m spending time with my family or friends or team. He’s sitting across from me now.
And Jesus isn’t silent, either.
I’m learning to listen for God’s voice, and it’s not an easy thing to learn. But I know God isn’t silent. I know He isn’t confined to verbal communication only. He speaks in more ways than I can count–through other people, with a still, small voice, through nature, through the pages of the Bible, and so much more–and I’m learning to listen. And what He has to say always overwhelms me with joy and peace.
So I want to encourage you to try it, too.
Today, when you pray, imagine Jesus standing right in front of you. Re-imagine prayer as a conversation and not just a shopping list. Engage in a real, rich, deep relationship with a real person. He wants you talk with Him, and He wants you to listen. It’s pretty incredible when you start.
I want to have lunch with Jesus, too, and I think I might try it. It might turn into a blog post. And it might turn into one of my new favorite things to do. We’ll see:-)
But for now, carve out time in your day to invest in your relationship with Jesus. Your relationship with Him is just like all the other friendships and relationships you have: you need to spend time with Him. You need to listen. If that means you take five minutes at the start to just be with Jesus, start there! It changes everything, I’m telling you.