Hello War. Hello Jesus.

My relationship with Jesus ignited when I was 19-years-old and flying to Kuwait for a possible war with Iraq. I was beyond lonely, and the word "scared" doesn’t begin to explain my emotional state. It was at that moment that I genuinely introduced myself to Jesus. It wasn’t a head nod to acknowledge his presence or a wave to say I see you. It was a desperate plea and acknowledgment that I had no one else to put hope in.

Within a few weeks of landing in Kuwait, the war against Iraq was declared, and bullets/bombs began to fly as we invaded. I didn’t have time to memorize scripture or study the words in red, but I found myself very reliant on Jesus for almost every step I took. I kept repeating, "If you are real, you need to prove it to me." My words weren't said in arrogance... it was a cry for help. Jesus was my last hope, and I betted all my chips on Him.

I chased after Jesus like a little kid while I was at war. I felt His presence. I knew He existed. I can’t explain the feeling because explaining would put limitations on what He did for me. My relationship with Him during that year was pure; it was just Him and me. I came running as vulnerable as I could be, and He accepted me with open arms because of it. I felt His presence, and it had nothing to do with Church attendance or knowledge of the Bible—it had everything to do with a broken heart fully hoping for His presence.

Jesus says in Mathew 7:22, “Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

The greatest blessing in my life was the day I went to war. However, my greatest curse was the day I came home from that war. That day, I said goodbye to loneliness and fear was the day I said goodbye to Jesus. It was that day I began to outwardly "live" for Jesus (first part of the verse in Mathew 7:22), but it was also the day I shifted my hope from entirely on Him back to the things of this world. I’m okay with acknowledging that because it’s the truth. I desperately want that type of relationship with Jesus again, but vulnerability like I experienced 15 years ago only happens in a perfect storm, like war or a tragic event in life. We have too many distractions in America and find temporary hope in things like careers, new cars, vacations, and even Church activities. A real relationship with Jesus starts when you realize He’s all you got.

I’m not claiming that the only way to have a relationship with Jesus is to go to war or experience a tragic event; I’m arguing that it takes a considerable amount of vulnerability. I still have a relationship with Him, but it’s not with the same pinpoint focus I once had at war—it seems watered down now. I’m listening to sermons instead of sitting alone for hours in a guard tower, yearning for His presence. It’s also likely that I spend more time trying to be Jesus than asking Him who He really is. Additionally, I’ve noticed that the more confident I’ve become with knowing scripture, the less I seem to rely on His presence. I’m more anxious to become the teacher and teach others than to be taught.

I would trade my knowledge of the scripture to have that relationship I once had with Jesus. This may seem to contradict itself because the scripture is the Word of God, but there is a difference between studying scripture for knowledge and studying scripture because your desperate and lonely. The latter is where true dependency occurs, and the relationship begins. We may be able to defend our beliefs with knowledge of scripture, but our expertise doesn’t count, according to Matthew 7:22. It's about the relationship. It's about dependence on Him.

I came to Jesus as a vulnerable mess, and it was the most significant relationship I’ve experienced. I truly miss that type of dependence I had with Jesus. I may never get back to that status, but I feel confident that one day He will look and me and say, “I remember you.” He will remember me because I needed Him much more than He needed me.

I tell you my story because I need to hear it again. I’ve accepted the lie that having a relationship with Jesus requires obedience, good works, church attendance, and the list goes on. However, it doesn’t require any of that. He isn’t looking for someone who knows the scripture and can recite verses from memory. He is searching for those that are broken and crying out because they’ve lost hope in everything else. I know this because I’ve been there and experienced that type of relationship with Him. I also tell you my story because someone needs to hear it too. All you have to offer is a broken and bruised heart? Great! Those are the prime ingredients for true dependence on Him.

If our lives are comfortable and don’t require “Jesus I need you!” moments, maybe it’s time to start a war! I wouldn’t recommend you declare war with another country but perhaps the war between Spirit vs. Flesh.

mark bland