Posted in Charity, Childhood, Faith, Health, Third Culture Kid

My Childhood Jesuses (What are Yours?)

“If Jesus was Jewish, did He believe in Himself?”  (Josh Goetz – 6)

It all started with “Get-Out-of-Hell Free” Jesus, the earliest one I can remember.  This Jesus gets “asked into your heart” and then when you die, you get saved from the fiery torment of an eternal damnation in a very literal place called hell.

Before you click away because you are worried that I am going to be marching down the path to preach a hell, fire and brimstone blog post, calm your hearts.  We’re just taking a little ride together.  🙂

I am reading a very light-hearted, yet serious-at-the-same-time book called Stolen Jesus.  One day, the author, Jami Amerine, notices that the portrait of Jesus at her local YMCA lobby is gone.  Finding out that He is now relegated to “behind the filing cabinet,” she sneaks Him out and hangs Him over her mantel at home, thus the title of the book.  She goes on to unpack all of her Jesuses (including Mormon Jesus, High School Jesus and Michigan Jesus), filling my mind with all of my own Jesuses.

Two weeks ago, I would have told you that I know Jesus pretty well.  I’ve got a pretty good handle on who and what He is and who and what He is not.  I’ve spent a lifetime figuring Him out.  After spending some much-needed time with Jami Amerine delving into all my different Jesuses, I’m thinking, “Maybe not.”  After all, the Jesus I believed in when I was three, eight, 12, 19, 28, 41 and 50ish are all completely different and some even contradictory.  Is He none of them?  Perhaps.

Childhood Jesuses formed hard and deep for me.  They continue to be a part of who I am today, some I long to embrace further and others I wish I could banish.  I would imagine you have your own.  Here is a glimpse into some of mine:

Get-Out-of-Hell Free Jesus
I asked Jesus into my heart every night for my whole childhood.  If you didn’t have Him in there, you were going to burn in a “lake of fire” forever and ever.   That was super scary.  Who wants that?  I certainly didn’t.  At the end of most days, I was never sure if I had done it right or meant it based on my troubling behavior earlier in the day, so the cycle continued endlessly.  Poor Jesus.  He was not a lot more than the best fire insurance a very frightened child could muster up.  (Little known fact:  this ended when 12-year old Esther wrote down the “date” I finally meant it in my Bible:  January 25, 1979.  It was for sure this time.  God help me.)

Boarding School Jesus (also known as Verse Group Jesus and Behavior-Management Jesus)
Every morning during my boarding school years, we were wakened and marched downstairs to some room (even before breakfast…but my memory might be a little fuzzy here) to memorize verses.  We got a prize at the end of the semester (lunch out at the local airport…big deal for this “never-eat-out” tot) for memorizing them all.   After all, “hiding these verses in our heart” would ensure that we would “not sin against” God (see Psalm 119:11 to get the picture) or more happily for our dorm parents and teachers, not sin against them.  It was an amazing “behavior management” technique.  (Quiet thought circling in my head:  Little Esther was good at this.  Especially on the outside.  Maybe not so much the inside.)

Aslan Jesus
It’s crazy how you can have simultaneous Jesuses that are nothing alike.  At the same time as Verse Group Jesus, I had another Jesus.  Many nights, after being fed and washed up, I listened to the Chronicles of Narnia being read by our dorm mother.  Enter Aslan Jesus.  He was a kind and gracious lion who loved and took great care of children, playing with them and even dying for them, even one of them who betrayed Him.  He seemed like the kind of Jesus and friend that I wanted and so desperately needed, very different from the first two that I had learned about or conjured up in my head.  I wished he was real.  I loved him.  Who wouldn’t?  (Secret:  I still love Aslan Jesus.  He’s a keeper.)

Bible Quiz Team Jesus
When I was a very nerdy high schooler, I belonged to a Bible quiz team.  We would memorize entire books of the Bible and compete with other teams for a chance to go to the National Tournament.  It happened all four years for me.  In fact, I was ranked the “#1 Bible Quizzer in the USA” my senior summer!  It’s probably the only time in my life I was the actual “master of the trade,” not just the “jack.”   I performed superbly.  I was highly rewarded for it.  This Jesus loved me.   I was acceptable in His eyes.  I had finally proved my worth to Him.  (Another secret:  This Jesus has pestered me to this day.  I daily battle with this Jesus.)

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What we believe about Jesus is paramount to how we live and love.   If we believe He’s out to get us, we may be afraid of Him.  If we believe His goal is to keep us in line, we will probably avoid Him (I was the queen avoider for years).  If we believe He accepts us only when we are “good,” we may perform well, but we also may feel like it’s never enough.  On the contrary, if we truly believe He loves and cares for us, and understand that in the core of our souls, we will have safety and freedom to love and respond in kind.

I have a lot more Jesuses that formed during my adult years, some I will speak of in another post.  Again, just like my childhood Jesuses, there are some I long to cling to and dive deeper with and some that don’t describe the Real Jesus at all and that I should run far away from.

I am still on my adventure to get to know the Real Jesus, the One who isn’t bound by all my experiences and thoughts and frailties, the One Who is completely Himself.  I hope you are too.  I do know one thing for sure:  I won’t be disappointed when I know Him fully!  It might take the rest of my life and even into forever for this to happen, but He will be worth it!  I love this journey with Him!

We all have different Jesuses.  Who are your childhood Jesuses?  I really hope you respond here by commenting or let me know on Facebook, Instagram, Linked In or Twitter.  I would love that so much!  Please like my posts out on social media (but only if you like them…LOL).  It helps it to move into people’s newsfeeds and I can get the word out to more folks!

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Author:

I am a wife, mom, daughter, women's group leader, sister, marriage mentor, friend, speaker and lover of Jesus.

9 thoughts on “My Childhood Jesuses (What are Yours?)

  1. Esther that photo!! you are so incredibly adorable and the picture as a whole is so poignant and evocative. I love this! I love hearing all these vivid stories and authentic memories!!

    My first Jesus’ were the best:
    Baby Jesus,
    Peace on Earth Jesus,
    Loves Little Children Jesus – in the bible story and in my beloved framed print on my wall of Jesus with young children (I think they were Dick, Jane and friends)
    Likes Mary better than Martha Jesus (one of my favorites)
    Calls Zaccheus and Matthew from tree and booth Jesus.
    Incomparably Kind and Compassionate Jesus
    Talks back to his Parents Jesus
    (another favorite) 😏
    Feeds the Hungry, Heals the Sick, loves the poor Sinners Jesus.
    My friend and Protector Jesus.
    The Jesus (and his Father, the one with the Prodigal Son) who were separate and independent in some way from the Scary Schizoid Violent Egomaniac Tyrannical Diety who showed up in some of the earlier stories 😁.
    The Gives Hope that Everything and Everyone will be made good and right (including me) Jesus.

    Sounds too good to be true but that’s what I remember my earliest Jesus’ were like. Things went slowly(?) downhill as the lines got blurred after that but that will be for the next list.

  2. I identified with these immensely and I love the way you told this, Esther! (Yes, Aslan Jesus!) Ever met the Jesus trapped in a homeschooler’s squeaky- clean bubble? 😑 I’m glad you are still searching to know Him inside & out, because I am too. 1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

  3. I’m with Annieller on the early years Jesus. I loved Memorizing the verses. It was a fun challenge to me and in my years of illness when I could hardly read or think it was a blessing that the verses were already in my mind where I could process them more and get them into my heart. That changed when I moved back to Canada at 9 then I didn’t know what to think because everything was intolerable and Jesus was very far away to my very confused heart. I saw Jesus in an SS teacher at that point. She was funny, friendly and a great listener and helped me process my pain. Alsan Jesus. I did like Him but then I did not because I did not like that Mr. Beaver said He was not safe. Since then Jesus has changed again with the experiences of adulthood. In the last 15 years i was in a church where the passion of the pastor was for us to really understand what the bible says about life and God so I have felt like I developed a stronger view of who Jesus really is but hard things do make you think through who He is. The last 8 years my thoughts have been on Phil 3 where Paul talks about learning to fellowship in Jesus Suffering. That is not an easy one to grasp. But it has a level of comfort to it because I know Jesus understands my suffering!

    1. Such an interesting journey you have been on. I do remember that quote very specifically from Mr Beaver. I guess I hung on to the “but He is good”
      Part in my 8 year old mind. Funny how different we all see Jesus! I love the verse somewhere shared that says “we will see Him as He is” not what we’ve conjured up in our minds. I haven’t even begun to process my adult jesuses yet. Hoping to take that journey this week.

  4. Loved your blog and loved reading the replies of others! And yes, Esther. The Bible memorization was before breakfast (6-7am)! I still can’t read John chapter 10 without associating it with those early mornings in 2nd grade. My early Jesus (that I still regularly experience) is “Big Stick Judgmental Disciplining Jesus” . . . the “Jesus” that is just waiting for me to step off the moralistic narrow way and on to the “broad way that leads to destruction” and discipline me by making my life miserable.

      1. Wow, your journey/encounters with Jesus are so parallel to mine. By the way, as I have been typing my mom’s letters from Africa I came across some excerpts regarding your family that I think you would be interested in reading. How can I send them to you?

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