Within every one of us, there is a question that takes a while to answer. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong response to what has been asked. The level of intimacy required to produce an honest response makes it impossible to answer incorrectly. Before you start pondering the answer yourself, bear with me for a minute while I share the effect the question has produced in my life.
Although attending mass and praying, the Rosary has been a part of my daily routine for most of my adult life, I am a recent convert to the Catholic Church. I went to a private Catholic school as a child, but I hadn’t yet put much thought into answering the question. Not enough to commit to being Catholic anyway.
A Need to be Reborn
I am well aware of the fact that you didn’t intend on reading a biography. Give me a minute. It’s important to me that you get to know me better. When I first started putting serious thought into pursuing a degree in theology, I was about two months into a seven-month jail sentence. Somewhere along the way, alcohol became more important than Jesus. I believed in who He is and knew He was my only means of salvation. Eternity just wasn’t important at the time, and I am very thankful for the lessons I learned and the guidance I found once I began looking.
Once I was lucky enough to reach the point where I had absolutely nothing, I finally had a chance to grow. After running as far as I could from my own shadow, I became a resident at a faith-based recovery home for men recovering from alcohol addiction in Jacksonville, Florida. This is when I was first introduced to seeking a personal relationship with Jesus, and I was more confused than ever.
Creating a Fresh Start
I had finally made the decision to surrender my life to Jesus, and I knew there were plenty of changes that needed to be made in regard to how I had been living. Looking back, I’m glad no one told me how difficult it would be at times because I more than likely would have decided it was too much work. The language I had grown comfortable with would need to change. I was no longer supposed to look at women the way I had been for years, and I would no longer make serious decisions based on my personal desires.
I started going to a Protestant church every Sunday with the other men I was living with and began attending mass a few days through the week. Reading my Bible also became part of my morning routine. While I wasn’t exactly doing a whole lot of praying, I spent a lot of time thinking about God. I was more frustrated than I had ever been in my life. I wanted to grow closer to Jesus more than anything else, yet I was still behaving and thinking the way I used to.
My anger seemed to become more intense with each passing day. Living just four blocks away from the beach, the bikinis became even more recognizable as I tried not to notice them. While hanging out with certain people, my language was just as horrible as it had ever been. To make things even worse, I felt like, because of this, I was growing even farther away from Jesus. I was learning more about Him on a daily basis, yet I continued living as I had before.
Identifying the Light
As stressful as those first few months were, there were a couple of blessings I was unable to see at the time. Along with developing a love for writing about Scripture, pursuing an education in theology became a reality. It became part of my daily routine to read a chapter in my Bible and then subjectively reflect and write about a verse or two that caught my attention while studying. I would spend some time in prayer, read my chapter for the day, pray some more, and then allow my thoughts to pour out onto a piece of paper.
It was during one of these sessions that I first stumbled across the question that would change my relationship with Jesus forever. I knew Him as my Lord and Savior, but I had yet to find a way to connect with Him on a personal level. I wasn’t exactly sure how to pray. There was a struggle when it came to experiencing the Holy Spirit in my daily life because I didn’t know what I was looking for. I considered myself a follower of Christ but had no clue on what the non-denominational preacher meant when he talked about experiencing intimacy with God.
All that changed when I began reading the Gospel of St. John. My intentions that morning were to read the first chapter. However, after verse 38, I wasn’t able to continue. I had finally found what was missing.
“Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’” (John 1:38, NABRE)
I immediately stopped reading and grabbed my pad of paper. Jesus Himself was asking the question no one else had asked me yet. What was I looking for? Yes, the simple answer during a children’s Sunday school class was salvation. I was able to look past that answer, though. There was an opportunity to answer Jesus directly with my life. I sat at the beach for about 35 minutes and came up with a list that I took seriously.
Coming Up With an Answer
I finally had something to talk to Him about while praying because I had identified what I was looking for. I was able to experience God working both in and through me in ways I had never imagined. I no longer had to be jealous of all of the stories I heard at Bible study of people experiencing a personal relationship with Jesus. I was able to start developing one of my own.
Although the list of what I am looking for has significantly changed over the last six years, I still have a current copy in my Bible that I look over from time to time. It seems like it is reviewed the most during times Jesus feels the farthest away. During the hardest times, I still pull out the original list dated October 18, 2012.
What Are You Looking For?
So my question to you is: what are you looking for? Now, before I go any further, I am not referring to all Catholics. I’m simply saying I’ve spoken to many who have no idea what experiencing a personal relationship with Jesus feels like.
Over the last few years, I have fallen in love with the Catholic Church. The more my background in theology develops, the more I love being Catholic. But I still get a lot of questions from Catholics in a few social media groups and a couple of the other websites I write for when I mention living in relationship with God. No, this doesn’t happen by only receiving the Eucharist and attending mass on a regular basis.
That’s like saying you can become best friends with someone by sharing meals with them a few times a week. Being in the same room with them for 45 minutes every now and then won’t be enough. That’s not going to happen. It has to be more personal. There has to be both questions and answers.
My intention in writing this was not to make you look for a pen and paper. I simply wanted to inspire others to dig deeper the next time they get on their knees to pray. What are you looking for? What do you want to accomplish through growing closer to Jesus? Is there something you need to achieve before you can begin fulfilling the purpose He has for you?
Once you are able to come up with an answer, Jesus will start asking you more complicated questions. The more of your heart you apply toward the answer, the easier you’ll recognize Jesus in your heart.
Featured Image by Warren Wong