“I don’t need Jesus! My shift is almost over,” giggled the cashier who was scanning my New Year’s Eve treats. She was right about one thing. Her shift was almost over. I had dashed into the nearest grocery store just before closing time to pick up a few last minute celebratory snacks for ringing in the new year later that night.
“I just had a lady come through here who offered me a Bible and told me I needed Jesus,” she explained, apparently greatly amused by it. She continued to chuckle as she packed my bags. “It’s New Year’s Eve. Today is almost over. I don’t need Jesus!”
But what about tomorrow, I wondered. What about all the tomorrows of this new year that lies just around the corner? Desperately I whispered a prayer, begging Jesus to show me what to say. All that came to mind was, “I sure need Jesus! I need Him every day!” I blurted it out with a smile and as much conviction and sincerity as I could muster in that awkward moment, remembering the mess that I was when Jesus rescued me. Her laughter took a nervous twist as she handed me the receipt. Perhaps this wasn’t the joke she thought it was. I wished her a happy new year and made way for another last minute shopper behind me.
Driving home, I thought about this girl who didn’t need Jesus. Did she think that making it this far without Him was some sort of guarantee of eternal independence? Was life really just about surviving and making it through one more day, day after day? Could that even be considered living? If she only knew the kind of life Jesus promised, a life plugged into the power and love that created us and sustains us and moves us toward a purpose that outlasts our earthly years. In comparison, how can life apart from Him be called living at all? The Apostle Paul actually described that kind of “life” as being “dead in your trespasses and sins”.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins – Ephesians 2:1
But how can you recognize that you need something if you’ve never experienced it?
When my husband and I were newlyweds, living in our first apartment together, he would constantly complain about not having a dishwasher. I didn’t grow up with one, so I happily washed all our dishes by hand, oblivious to our need for such an appliance. It made no difference to me, because I had no first hand knowledge of how owning a dishwasher could impact my life. Fast forward a few years. We were living in a townhouse with a bit more square footage when my husband spied an ad for a second hand, portable dishwasher for sale. We bought it and brought it home, and my life was forever changed. I finally understood my husband’s incessant bemoaning of our newlywed, dishwasherless condition. How had I managed so long without one?
This is a silly example, but the illustration stands: it’s difficult to admit a need that you can’t perceive. Blinded eyes need opening. Hardened hearts need softening. This is the gentle work of faith. It’s faith that makes us certain of the things we cannot see.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1
Perhaps it was faith then that Emily Dickinson had in mind when she penned these words:
I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea:
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.
The mystery of faith, however, is that it comes to us through no merit of our own. It is a gift, given by grace.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminded them that it was God’s mercy that made the difference between death and life for them, when he wrote, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses”.
God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses – Ephesians 2:4-5
What mercy, indeed! To love us in our indifference, to make us alive even though we were dead and didn’t know it.
I don’t know my cashier’s name, but I believe in a God who does! So I pray for her. I pray for the girl with purple hair who doesn’t need Jesus. I pray because I remember how indifferent I once was. And I had always known that I needed Jesus. I even had Jesus! I had Him in the collective spiritual knowledge of my upbringing. I had Him tucked securely into the folds of my brain and a corner of my heart. I had His name at the ready on my lips. I had Him on my own terms, within the fence posts of my provisional surrender. I had Jesus, all right. But He didn’t have me.
Patiently, with immeasurable mercy, God showed me my need. When all the things I thought God needed from me vanished because of my own foolishness, He showed me that He didn’t need a thing from me. But there was something He wanted. He wanted my love. In fact, I came to see that my life — true life — depended upon it. Like I told the cashier on New Year’s Eve, “I sure need Jesus! I need Him everyday!” May God, in His rich mercy and great love, give her eyes of faith to see how much she needs Him too.