Few things lead to butterflies in the stomach like a brand new connection. First meetings can be nerve-wracking! First days of school, interviews, dates, and new places. You aren’t sure where you stand or what it will be like, so you prepare and wait and jump into the moment, filled with excitement and apprehension.
These new relationships can be sabotaged from the outset by self-talk of our own short comings or belief that someone is against us.
This explains the unease and discomfort we feel when we consider approaching God for the first time or after a long time. I see it when I invite someone to church and they say “me? Church? I can’t go, the building will catch on fire!” I’ve felt it in my own life when in college, I wanted to engage with this big idea that is called “God,” but any words were stuck in my throat.
When we are hurting or angry, we do not understand God or know how to take him; let alone approach him. We also sense we are approaching something that we don’t have a category for. The idea of a first encounter with God makes our mood tense, our palms sweat, or even scares us.
Enter Jesus, who Mark the evangelist calls “the savior, the son of God.” The Christian scriptures say that it is in Jesus that the nature of God is fully revealed. But instead of depicting an unfriendly, far off God who avoids humans, God is revealed to be welcoming.
Jesus was often found hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, including those infamous for their “ungodliness.” One of Jesus’ most known sayings is directed to those of us unsure of our footing before God: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:27-29). Through Jesus, anyone has a way to experience the warm hospitality of God, which is prolific throughout the Bible.
God is welcoming, but our misconceptions of ourselves keep us from entering into relationship (yes, a relationship) with God. Here is the good news, called “gospel” by followers of Jesus: Any who trust Jesus as their representative before God are fully accepted and embraced by God (John 6:37). Our awkwardness becomes one-sided: We are welcomed by a kind, loving God. As we learn to pray and find out more about God, our fears are replaced by joy and peace.
If your approach of God has been hindered because you don’t know if you will be welcomed, you will be! Jump in by checking out a church, reading one of the “gospels” in the Bible, or by asking that God would show you who He is. You have nothing to lose, and real connection with the living God to gain.
Gavin Jarvis is lead pastor at Living Stones Church.