The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 9: Meeting Jesus
Well, hello friends. If you were born and raised Catholic, you may have heard the phrase ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ and maybe had a few thoughts about it:
1. Um, that’s a Protestant thing.
2. Are we supposed to have that? And,
3. How is that even possible?
I know I felt that way for a long time.
In fact, it was mostly Protestant authors, podcasters, and friends who helped me discover and nurture my personal relationship with Jesus over many years, but the root of even realizing it was a possibility for me – well, that came very suddenly in one particular encounter I can still clearly remember, over twenty years later.
Before that day, I didn’t even use the word Jesus, like, the word itself felt kind of odd and clumsy coming out of my mouth somehow. I don’t know why. My experience with Him up until that point was kind of the coloring page version, and of course I knew He loved me because the Bible told me so, like the song says, but that was kind of it. And it wasn’t something I gave a lot of thought to, either. When people used the word ‘Jesus’, I just used the word ‘God’ instead. I was going to weekly mass and trying to be a good person and certainly didn’t think I was missing out on anything, except that a sometimes a still small voice was kind of insistently telling me: there is more. Has that ever happened to you, friend?
When I first encountered Jesus, I was a young Mom at home with my two small kids and undergoing a pretty intense time of spiritual deconstruction. I wouldn’t have called it that then but looking back, I see how that time was changing me. And when my Mom asked me to go to a ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminar at her church, I said yes, though I remember I was kind of grumpy about it. Before I left my little yard to head out on that summer evening, my then three-year old son Brian gave me a hug, leaned back, looked in my eyes, and asked, “Mom, what is a star?” Well, it felt like one of those little kid questions meant to keep you at home just a little longer, but I remember I told him, “a star is a sun that is very far away”, and off I went.
Life in the Spirit is a program of charismatic renewal – a typical evening involves a speaker and a time of prayer but not like any prayer I’d ever seen. In that church basement, a whole bunch of Catholic ladies were praying with their hands in the air and repeatedly calling out the name Jesus as they prayed over us and each other. As a twenty-something Northeastern American cradle Catholic girl, I was completely freaked out. Some people were even being ‘slain in the spirit’ as they were prayed over, which means they were literally falling backwards and when it was time for these ladies to pray over me, you’d better believe I was looking for the quickest way out. But also, I was my Mom’s ride home and I didn’t want to embarrass her, so me and my Catholic guilt got up and stood there, completely and utterly mortified, with my eyes closed tight.
And totally unexpectedly, Jesus came to me there. For the first time, I could feel Him in my spirit. Could feel Him saying, “Kerry – just like that star that Brian asked you about tonight, I AM the Son who seemed so very far away, but I am drawing close to you and this will change everything from now on.” Okay to be clear, I did not hear words – it was more a feeling, and this is the closest I can get to describing it. But also, it didabsolutely change everything. From that day on, it was me and Jesus.
I am aware that while there may be some of you listening who have your own story of intimate encounter with Jesus (PS-I want to hear those stories!), there may be others who not only do not have those stories but may feel a weight of guilt for not having them yet. Please, friend do not do that to yourself. We Catholics can spin out on the checklist of all things spiritual that we are sure we’re not doing right, but this is not one of those things. If you want to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus, be assured you are not the only one in that equation. On the other side is an all-powerful, all-loving God who wants connection with you. Jesus is on the other side of a door in your heart that you can open, and in some way or time that we can’t guess at right now, He will certainly walk right in if you want Him to or walk in in a deeper or new way. In Revelation 3:20 it says so: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
Try to think back to a wonderful meal you have shared with friends. And I know, because of the pandemic it’s probably been a while, but try to remember what that felt like. I bet you felt loved, grateful, full. I bet there was peace, joy and the feeling of being known. People who met and encountered Jesus were recorded by scripture as being changed forever. Maybe for the first time ever, they were seen, heard, healed, and forgiven. Certainly, they were inspired. In response to meeting Jesus, they left jobs, families, and whole ways of life to walk further with Him. It must have been something, don’t you think?
If you want him to, Jesus will come into your open and receptive heart in some way that you probably don’t expect and that’s kind of exciting, right? The God of the universe who made Himself human and who made Himself small enough to become bread did those things to get as close to you, His beloved, as possible. And just like any relationship, there are highs and lows, twists and turns, but with time and attention, it can become deeper, truer, and somehow both more comfortable and more challenging all at once. One thing’s for sure, it’s worth it.
If you’d like to explore this topic with me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. I have lots of resources for you in today’s show notes that I hope you’ll explore, but mostly I just want to pray with you today, so can we do that?
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit amen. Jesus, our friend and brother, you are looking on us in love right this very minute. Maybe this time together has been You knocking on the door of our heart or maybe we can’t hear You quite yet. Help us to breathe and know: it’s okay. And help us to see that Your plan for us includes growing in a deeper, more beautiful relationship that starts with one turn of a doorknob, one sliver of light, one experience of Your kindness and mercy. So, would you give that to us today, Jesus, in a way we can’t miss? Your arms are so much longer than ours, and so we thank you for meeting us right where we are. You are very welcome here. Amen.
Friend, thanks so much for listening. I’ll see you next time.