I love being Christian. I love the peace that it brings. I love what the Church stands for. I love the history it holds. I love how it’s timeless, pulls out the best in people when fully embraced, and makes all things new.
Sometimes Jesus feels so far away, though. He seems more like a distant figure, sitting in a robe on a cloud, who couldn’t be more removed from the twenty-first century and all of its problems than a loving companion or friend.
I am guilty of falling into the lifeless routine of going to Mass, reading the Bible, and reciting my prayers all out of habit, obligation, or (dare I say) necessity than out of love or friendship with him.
I forget that Jesus was a man. A real life, flesh and blood person who walked the same earth that we are on now, facing many of the same types of people, problems, and circumstances. I forget that he was fully God AND fully man.
In an effort to embrace this idea more completely, I’ve been spending time meditating on the idea of Jesus as a real man who wants to know me personally. What would I say to a friend if I were sitting on a park bench next to him? What if I hadn’t seen him in a while or I had hurt him recently? How might my prayers be different than they are now?
Even then, it can still be difficult to wholeheartedly accept this idea of Jesus being a relatable person. After all, he didn’t dress like we do now. He didn’t drive or have social media. Heck, we don’t even know with certainty what he looked like—spoiler, he probably wasn’t blond-haired and blue-eyed. But to the people of his time, he appeared to be an average guy, nothing special at all. He wasn’t rich, he didn’t have an important job or a well-to-do family. He was just average.
With that in mind, I try to imagine if he lived in 2019 and was just an everyday man, like my husband or brothers-in-law or friends. How weird it is to consider that he would probably dress like most people do now, in jeans and a t-shirt. He could have a beard, but maybe not, long hair or short. He’d have neighbors and friends and customers and maybe even co-workers he’d work alongside.
It seems like such a ridiculous revelation, but it’s not revolutionary at all. Jesus did have all of these things. To the people of his time, he was just like anyone else, which is what makes it even more extraordinary that he turned out to be who he said he was: the Son of God.
In this simple epiphany, so much spiritual growth and peace are held. When I am able to remember who Jesus truly was and is, my prayers are more heartfelt, sincere, and powerful. It’s easier to open up to him about the most mundane concerns in my mind or share with him even the smallest joys of my day. The obligatory prayers melt away, replaced with honest conversation and an actual relationship is fostered.
Just as with any relationship, though, it requires time and effort for it to develop and thrive. When I feel myself slipping into a spiritual dryness where the Lord becomes more of a figure than a friend, I imagine myself sitting right there on that park bench next to Jesus in a t-shirt. The guy who fished with his friends and got tired after long days. The guy who cried when people died and went to weddings with his family. The guy who had a mom and a job and feelings. Who lived centuries ago, but who knows what it means to be human as much as anyone else and not only wants to share it with each one of us, but wants even more to save us from it. To make us holy.
That’s the guy I want to know. The guy in the t-shirt.