“This Book Has Been My Friend”

I’ll let Lauren handle my blogging duties today. I’ve gotten many emails like this over the past nearly-twenty years that “The Jake Story” started to appear in the world. Dave Coleman and I started releasing chapters over twenty years ago at JakeColsen.com. No one knew who was writing it at the time, but the story seemed to capture what so many others were experiencing.

I just finished reading your book So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I have never read a book that has explained a past situation of so many layers and depth and put clear biblical thoughts and explanations to it. I could relate to everything in that book from a past church situation my husband and I went through eight years ago. Thankfully and painfully, we have been changed ever since.

This book has been my “friend” and God has provided me a lot of clarity and encouragement through this book. Thank you for having the boldness to write it.

I believe we are on the same journey.

It sure sounds like we are. I’m always blessed to hear that something I’ve written has magnified in someone else’s heart what the Spirit of God was revealing in them. I’m so grateful that this little story keeps finding its way into people’s hearts and how much it encourages them to the “better things” God has placed in their hearts.

A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of the national discord through the recent election, someone mentioned to me that we could use a “John” to invite us again to those things of first importance.

So, I went back and read that opening scene and excerpted part of it below if you’d like to as well. It began with an angry group of people arguing about God and religion on a public street. As they grew increasingly hostile and threatening to each other, a stranger walked into the center of the fight and floated a different perspective into the crowd:

“You really have no idea what Jesus was like, do you?”

The words slipped off the man’s lips as gently as the breeze wafted through the trees overhead and in stark contrast to the heated argument that swirled around him. They were so softly spoken that I read them on his lips as much as heard what he said. But their impact was not lost on the crowd. The noisy clamor subsided quickly as tension-filled faces gave way to puzzled expressions. “Who said that?” was the unspoken question that filled the eyes of each one as they scanned the others around them.

“What do you know about it, old man?” One of them finally spoke up, his mockery dripping off of each word until the disapproving gaze of the crowd silenced him. He laughed it off and looked away embarrassed, grateful that their eyes had swung back to the stranger. But he was in no hurry to speak. The resulting silence hung in the air, far beyond the point of awkwardness. A few nervous glances and shrugs shot throughout the crowd, but no one spoke and no one left. During this time the man scanned the crowd pausing to hold each person’s gaze for a brief second. When he caught my eye, everything inside seemed to melt. I looked away instantly.

After what seemed an insufferably long time he spoke again. “He was nothing special to look at. He could walk down this street today and not one of you would even notice him. In fact he had the kind of face you would shy away from, certain he wouldn’t fit in with your crowd.

“But he was as gentle a man as one would ever know. He could silence detractors without ever raising his voice. He never bullied his way; never drew attention to himself nor did he ever pretend to like what vexed his soul. He was real, to the very core of his being.

“And at the core of that being was love.” The stranger paused and shook his head. “Wow! Did he love!” His eyes looked far past the crowd now, seeming to peer across the depths of time and space. “We didn’t even know what love was until we saw it in him. It was everyone, too, even those who hated him, who wouldn’t extend to him the simplest of courtesies. He still cared for them, hoping somehow they would find a way out of their self-inflicted souls to recognize who stood among them.”

“And with all that love, he was completely honest. Yet even when his actions or words exposed people’s darkest motives, they didn’t feel shamed. They felt safe with him. His words conveyed not even a hint of judgment, simply an entreaty to come to God and be freed by him. There was no one you would trust more quickly with your deepest secrets. If someone were going to catch you at your worst moments you’d want it to be him.

“He wasted no time mocking others, nor their religious trappings.” He glanced at those who had just done so. “If he had something to say to them, he’d say it and move on and you would know you’d been loved more than anyone had ever loved you before.” Here the man stopped, his eyes closed and mouth clenched as if choking back tears that would melt him in an instant if he gave in to them.

“I’m not talking about mamby-pamby sentimentalism either. He loved, really loved. It didn’t matter if you were Pharisee or prostitute, disciple or blind beggar, Jew, Samaritan, or Gentile. His love held itself out for any to embrace. Most did, too, when they saw him. Though so few ended up following him for those few moments his presence passed through their life, they tasted something they could never deny even years later. Somehow he seemed to know everything about you, but loved deeply all that was true about who he made you to be.”

He paused and scanned the crowd. In the last couple of moments perhaps as many as 30 people had stopped to listen, their gaze firmly on the man and their mouths suspended open in bewilderment. I can record his words here, but am bereft of an adequate description of their impact. No one within earshot could deny their power or their authenticity. They rang from the very depths of this man’s soul.

“And when he hung there from that filthy cross,” the man’s eyes looked up into the trees that towered over us, “that love still poured down—on mocker and disillusioned friend alike. As he approached the dark chamber of death, wearied by his battle with sin, there was no finer moment in all the world. His anguish became the conduit for his life to be given to you. This was no madman. This was God’s Son, poured out to the last breath, so that we could live free.

“If I were you,” he said sweeping his index finger across those who’d started the whole discussion “I would waste far less time ragging on religion and find out just how much he really loves you.”

You can pick up the rest of the story in the book. If you haven’t read it, it’s thirteen fictional conversations between this man on the street and the one observing him in the crowd, who is frustrated with his own lifeless faith.  Who is this stranger on the street, and what does he know about Jesus?

The answers change the trajectory of his entire life and open doors he would never have imagined.