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Falling in Love With Jesus

Falling in Love With Jesus-
The Other Tool of Inner Healing

Mark Sandford

 

Remember how you felt when you first invited Jesus into your heart? You were in love! But if you’re like me, the feeling didn’t last long. Oh, you could still feel His presence, and you knew He loved you. But you no longer had that wonderful “head over heels in love” feeling. You came to believe that was a passing phase you occasionally revisit at anointed worship conferences. But every once in a while, you might have met persons for whom it was not. My sister-in-law, Beth, is one of them.

She once said to me, “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s in your gut. I see all the little things he does for me every day, especially in nature. Like the little birds he sends my way, and I get so tickled. Or maybe there’s something I’m supposed to do but can’t, and later I find He prevented it for a special reason. All day long I see His purposes in every little thing that happens. I’ve always been in love with Jesus!”

“When did you fall in love with Him?” I asked.

“I knew His love since I was tiny. When I was just one and a half, I began singing to myself and my dog in a language I’d never heard. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it felt wonderful! I didn’t tell any grown-ups because I saw that they never did it and I thought they might not understand. Finally, when I was eighteen, I opened up to someone about it and they told me I’d been praying in tongues!”

Beth’s eyes were aglow with the simple, unspoiled faith of a child. Her joyful innocence was bubbling over.

“I’d always had a memory that made no sense to me: someone in a gray cell reaching through bars, begging for his baby. When I was grown, I asked Mom if she knew what that meant. She told me that after World War 2, Dad went insane with PTSD. In the 1950’s, no one knew what that was, and there was no help for it. He got out of control; he even tried to kill my uncle! When I was three months along in the womb, Mom moved my sister and brother in with our grandparents and went to say goodbye to Dad in prison. Dad begged her not to leave him. He reached through the bars and pleaded, ‘Please don’t leave me; I want to be able to hold my baby!’ When Mom told me this, I realized why I’d always felt welcomed in this world. What my spirit sensed in Dad’s heart kept my heart open to Jesus; I knew l was wanted. I’ve always been in love with Jesus.”

Scripture says that an infant has a spirit that understands far more than his undeveloped mind can perceive. If John the Baptist leapt in Martha’s womb when he recognized Jesus in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:41), then there was no reason why I shouldn’t believe what Beth was saying.

“But how did you hang onto that falling-in-love feeling all your life?” I asked.

That was a question Beth couldn’t answer. No one I had met who felt that "in love with Jesus" feeling had an answer. So Maureen and I gave up looking for what Beth had. This lifelong love affair was only for the few whom God had specially favored.

Then, this spring, Maureen and I met two more Beths who changed our minds. Kamran and Suzy Yaraei invited us to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains to record videos for the underground church in Iran. In just a few days we filmed fourteen episodes, but our energy never gave out because the atmosphere in their home was like a spiritual energy drink. It wasn’t just the late afternoon badminton that refreshed us, or the drive up to the ridge to view the hazy blue mountains, or the nightly Persian feasts on Kamran and Suzy’s back deck, surrounded by blinking yellow fireflies. It was their infectious love affair with Jesus that infused every moment with His life and love. Although they have no children, rarely have we felt so enfolded by a feeling of family.

One morning while Kamran was upstairs cooking up a Persian breakfast of potato cakes drizzled with tzatziki sauce, I read the Song of Solomon and was impressed more than ever by the way every line dripped with romance; for eight chapters, two young lovers showered each other with profuse admiration. For the first time, it occurred to me that this was no passing phase that faded after the honeymoon. For three thousand years, both Jews and Christians have compared this story to a divine romance between God and His people. Why, then, would it be normative to fall out of love with God after the honeymoon? He has not fallen out of love with us. Aren’t we supposed to become like Him?

I asked Kamran, “For you, what keeps the romance going?”

“I don’t know.”

“OK, I’ve heard that before,” I thought, doing my best to hold back a despairing sigh. But I remembered Jesus’ words in Luke 6:45: “Out of the abundance of his heart his mouth speaks” (KJV). The heart may say things we don’t realize it is saying. So I asked Kamran to share his story, hoping that the answer might become apparent as he spoke.

Kamran told me that from age twelve, he began to thirst for friendship with God. Angels began to appear in his dreams. At fifteen, out the car window he saw a man on a white horse wearing a crown, and he wondered who this could be. (He had never read the Holy Book that reveals this as Jesus in Revelation 9:11). He looked for answers in the only religion he knew—Islam. Whenever religious leaders and clerics came into his father’s grocery store, Kamran asked them, “How can I find a personal friendship with God?” All they could say was, “Read the Koran over and over; it will give you extra credit” (Islam teaches there is no such thing as a personal friendship with Allah). This didn’t draw Kamran closer to God. Still, he always felt God’s eyes on him, and he continued to search the earth for someone whose heart was after Him.

For a time, Kamran resorted to becoming a Muslim fanatic. When he was old enough to enlist, he wanted to die as a martyr on the battlefield of the Iran-Iraq war so he could be with Allah in heaven, but his father prevented it. Kamran persevered in his search for a loving God until at the age of thirty, he finally gave up. Exasperated, he cried, “I wanted to be your friend. You don’t want to be my friend. I’m done with you!” Sick of the dryness of Islam and the ayatollah’s repressive grip on life in Iran, he headed for America.

Kamran traveled to Cyprus to apply for a visa, where he found a Farsi-language Bible in a hotel lobby and was strangely drawn to it. “It was the sweetest book I ever read,” he said, “especially the parts about the prophet, Jesus” (the Koran had taught him that Jesus was only a prophet). The clerk gave him the book, and even signed it. One day the name, “Jesus,” visibly rose off the Bible, floated to the ceiling, and back down to the page. This happened repeatedly. The fourth time, Jesus appeared above Kamran in the flesh and promised him, “I will help you get to the United States”! His visa was approved the very next day (normally, it took forty days). But he wondered, "Why did Jesus help me when none of the other prophets did, not even Mohammed?” 

When Kamran arrived in America, he read further and found that the Bible said that Jesus was the son of God. He threw the book at the wall in anger, for the Koran calls the idea that God has a son, blasphemy. For three years, Kamran didn’t read another word of the Bible.

Then he took acting lessons from a woman who obviously had a close friendship with God. She talked to him about the love of God. This made him angry, because God had made him wait so long for relationship. But she and her friends kept on loving him. One day, he asked one of them, “How can I pray to Jesus? She shared about the salvation prayer. At first, he refused. But then he prayed, “Jesus, I don’t believe you are the Son of God, but if you are, I give you my heart. I don’t believe your blood has any power to forgive my sins, but if it does, please wash them away. If you can build a friendship between my heart and the heart of God, I give you permission to do anything.” He turned to Allah and prayed, “Forgive me if I have done anything wrong by praying this prayer. If Jesus is not your son, then stop Him from coming to me.”

Not long after Kamran had prayed this, friends invited him to a large church, and the peace of God he felt there brought him to tears. He saw a man with a staff standing behind the pastor, and a voice told him this was Christ. A darker voice accused him of merely seeing things, but as he began agreeing with it, he saw Jesus walking on the air and right into him! A fire Kamran described as “delicious” was ignited all around him. He said it felt like the sweetest hug. He asked people what it was.

“The Holy Spirit,” they answered. Someone asked Kamran, “Now do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?”

“No,” he replied, “but I believe He has forgiven me and has come into my heart.”

Not long after that, he was invited to a small church where people gathered around him to pray. Looking up at six-foot seven-inch Kamran, a petite, five-foot two-inch woman announced, “The Lord told me to touch your hand.” When she did, he was afraid to look at her; she rebuked an accusing spirit that had showered him with shame since his childhood. Kamran didn’t yet know enough English to understand what “accusing spirit” meant, but when she touched his hand, he fell to the floor. A tornado churned upward from his stomach as the demon came out screeching like a wildcat. He looked up and saw Jesus at the right side of God’s throne. He began to see life in everything around him. Instantly, he was in love with Jesus, and now he knew that Jesus was, indeed, the son of God!

Kamran said to me, “God called Abraham His ‘friend’ [2 Chronicles 20:7], and "Jesus called his disciples ‘friends,’ for He made the Father known to them” [John 15:15]. His eyes misted over with admiration. “There is no greater honor on earth or in heaven than for the God of the entire universe to call you His personal friend.” Kamran has made it his life’s goal to spread the word to both the Persian and Western worlds that Jesus wants all of us to join in His divine romance.

“Did being in love with Jesus speed up the inner healing process?” I asked.

His eyes lit up. “Yes!”

“Did it speed it up healing for Suzy too?” 

“Yes, for her too, but she needed a lot more inner healing than me because she had a harder childhood and had become addicted to drugs and alcohol.”

Suzy explained to me that she had been a back-up singer for nearly every star of the Country stage—Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, Winona Judd, and Riba McEntire, to name a few. But there was a dark side to the music industry, and it was no place for a girl with an unhealed heart. Through Riba (who was a Christian) and Riba’s hairdresser, Suzy had an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Then God told her, “Quit your job.” Soon after Suzy quit, Riba’s plane went down in flames with her entire band (but without Riba and Suzy on board). That got Suzy’s attention—God was watching out for her! She found her way to Morning Star Ministries where she fell in love with the Jesus to whom neighbors had introduced her when she was twelve years old and struggling in a dysfunctional family.

I asked Suzy, “Have you always been in love with God since then?”

“No,” she replied, I started to lose that when I fell in love with my new career as a worship minister” (she had a hundred interns learning worship under her at Morningstar’s school of ministry). But Jesus came to me in dreams three nights in a row and said, Divorce your ministry and marry your husband.' Kamran advised me, 'Don’t stop doing ministry; just divorce your ministry.' I didn’t quit, but I slowed down. I made falling in love with Jesus my main focus in life, and from then on, all of my ministry flowed from that.” And Suzy’s fire for Jesus was rekindled.

As I listened to Kamran and Suzy, the answer came to me about what kept them in love with Jesus. It was was their constant focus on having an intimate friendship with Jesus. It was as simple as that. Our focus can drift from a love affair with Him toward work, gifts, ministry, or even inner healing. Our bent toward the pursuit of anything but friendship with Jesus can become so ingrained that we don’t even notice the drift is happening—imperceptibly, in increments until we’re off course and unaware of it. These three had chosen to stay focused perpetually on what is central to life and love.

I wondered about persons whose hearts have become so numbed by a life of severe trauma that they’re no longer even capable of falling in love. It doesn’t even occur to some that God would fall in love with them—unless someone tells them He has. Beth knew Jesus from the womb; her heart never had time to go numb. In spite of their struggles, Kamran and Suzy were both able to feel the love of Jesus although it took longer for them to find it and make it theirs. What about those who desperately want to fall in love with Jesus, but simply can’t?

I was reminded of Billy, a little boy our friends Ken and Donna Campbell adopted. Billy’s biological parents had left his two-year-old sister to babysit him while they were at the taverns getting drunk for two and three days at a time. When Child Protective Services handed over six-month-old Billy to Ken and Donna, he was already incapable of feeling love. Most babies melt into you when you hold them; Billy literally felt like he had rigor mortis. People joked that you could hammer a nail with him.

But Donna did two things to soften Billy’s heart. First, she prayed for inner healing. She prayed that Jesus would absorb the trauma into His cross. She prayed that God would enable Billy to let go of any unspoken inner vows he had made to close his heart and give up on love. She asked Billy to forgive his parents. Of course, six-month-old Billy couldn’t understand the words. But Donna said, “If God could cause John the Baptist to sense who Jesus was before he was born, He can help Billy sense the meaning of what I’m saying.”

Second, Donna soaked Billy with love. She literally strapped him to herself, and for a year, she rarely put him down. She cooked with him, ironed with him, bathed with him, and slept with him. She told him endlessly, “I love you, Billy, and I will never leave you.”

Within six months, Billy began to limber up. By the time he was one and a half, he melted into his mother’s embrace like most infants naturally do. Like one dying of thirst, he drank from Donna’s heart the love his biological parents had withheld. As he grew older, he would greet Maureen and me with effusive hugs and “I love you’s.” Billy was in love with life and everyone he knew, including God.

The falling-in-love feeling that people like Billy, Beth, Kamran, and Suzy feel isn’t the shallow infatuation you see in movies. It is grounded in something far deeper. It is what kept King David’s head above water when he was “despised” (Psalm 22:6) and people ferocious as “roaring lions” “opened their mouths wide” against him (vss. 12-13). As a child, David had received from his Mom what Billy received from Donna—peace in the midst of the storm. “I learned to trust God upon my mother’s breast,” he said (vs. 9). During his darkest days, a love affair with God that started when his mom fell in love with her baby still kept him nestled safely on God’s chest. Kamran told me that this centered love is what keeps him filled with joy no matter what trials he has to face.

Maureen and I counsel grown Billys. They come to us in their forties, fifties, and sixties with emotional rigor mortis, unable to feel the love others offer them, much less fall in love with Jesus. Inner healing removes the barriers to God’s love—bitterness toward those who have been unloving, and inner vows not to trust, feel, or need love. Another tool of inner healing is needed—to be strapped to Jesus, held in His big, strong, loving arms until the rigor mortis wears off. In Mark 10:15, Jesus showed how it’s done: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (“receive” in Greek is dechomai—meaning, to deliberately accept what is offered). “And He took the children in his arms [in the Greek, literally, “enfolded them in his arms”], placed his hands on them and blessed them.”

If your spiritual eyes were opened, you could see that Jesus is holding you. You can’t make yourself fall in love with Him, but inner healing can remove the barriers that keep His love away, and you can make the deliberate choice to receive His embrace. If you can’t feel what’s in it, that doesn’t mean His love isn’t having its potent effect. Like little Billy, some of us need to let Jesus strap us on for a long season until we finally begin to melt and feel again.

That means staying in the presence of anointed worship even if you can’t feel it and allowing others to embrace you even if you can’t feel yourself soaking it up.

It also means choosing to honor the love that God has sent your way so far. In Psalm 27:10, David said, “My father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.” Look back over your life. In what ways did God take you up? What moments of special protection or favor? What Donnas did He send to love you to life, what spiritual mothers or fathers? If you listen to the Holy Spirit long enough, He will remind you of ways in which the Father took you up. When those memories come to you, make the deliberate choice to open your heart to them. Let them embrace you. Drink them in like a child on his mother’s breast. Repeat them to yourself until your heart starts to believe them.

I wonder how many Billys Jesus held that day when He blessed the children. As Jesus said, it takes a deliberate choice to receive what He offers. Be a child. A child is much better at making such choices.

The God who created galaxies light-years across is in love with the little speck in the cosmos that is you. If you choose to let Him love you, sooner or later you will melt into His embrace, and you will see how much bigger you are in His eyes than in your own. As long as you keep friendship with Him as your main focus, and nothing else, rest assured, eventually the rigor mortis will wear off. It may take time, but it will happen. You will begin to limber up. And you will fall in love.

Beth, Kamran, Suzy, and Billy will tell you that this divine romance isn’t just a passing phase. Jesus is still in love with you. He always has been and always will be. There’s no reason why you should not be too.

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