My mind makes strange connections. I can’t even count the number of times that people look at me strangely, because I have spoken out something seemingly random and unrelated to anything being discussed. Of course, it all makes sense in my mind, but apparently it doesn’t to anyone else.
Recently I purchased the DVD “What About Bob?”, a movie with Bill Murray in it. This is part of my ongoing attempt to collect the movies that I’ve seen before, liked, and then never watched again because I didn’t own it. In the movie, Bill Murray plays a guy named Bob, who is a mentally disturbed person. He has been to many, many psychiatrists who have all tried to help him, but for the most part he’s a hypochondriac, making up random things to be afraid of. “What if my heart stops beating? Or what if I can’t find a washroom and…and…my bladder explodes?” The biggest problem he faces is his separation anxiety. He meets a new psychiatrist referred to him by his old psychiatrist (who is quitting the practice as he has gone rather insane from his dealings with Bob). The meeting goes well until he finds out that this Dr. Marvin is leaving for vacation for a month. His separation anxiety kicks in, and as the movie progresses, he fakes suicide to learn where exactly he has gone – to, of course, meet up with him. Soon, his charming personality and complete innocence wins over Dr. Marvin’s family, who then turn against Dr. Marvin, since he wants him to leave so he doesn’t have his vacation ruined. The whole thing is hilarious, because as Bob gets better, Dr. Marvin gets progressively worse, eventually trying to kill Bob just to get him to leave. Bob ends up marrying Dr. Marvin’s sister, and Dr. Marvin ends up in an asylum. It’s a funny movie.
Anyways, I think one of the reasons I enjoy this movie is probably because it deals so much with the psychological health of both of the main characters. Here is this doctor who is just trying to enjoy his vacation, and this patient refuses to leave, each time coming up with some new excuse or “problem” for him to fix. So, I watched this movie, had a few laughs, and then put it away. I then remembered how I hadn’t done my devotions yet today, so I headed upstairs to do that. I’ve been reading through Luke for the past while now, and right now I’m reading about the events leading up to the crucifixion. Specifically, tonight I read about Peter’s denial and Jesus’ trial before the high priests. And, to tie this whole thing together, my mind made a very strange connection.
I have a Life Application Bible that has notes at the bottom of each page for the verses above them. I’m really not sure who writes them, but some of them really get me thinking sometimes. Tonight, as you probably have guessed, was one of those times. It was a note discussing how Peter cried bitterly not only because he had turned his back on the Messiah, but also because he had let down a friend and mentor whom he had followed for three years. It then said how we need to aware of our breaking points and not become over-confident or self-sufficient. “If we fail Him, we must remember that Christ can use those who recognize their failure. From this humiliating experience Peter learned much that would help him later when he assumed leadership of the young church.” That hit me. It hit me hard.
You see, Bob recognized his problems. In his introductory interview with Dr. Marvin, he listed off plenty of them. But his real problem was not in the fact that he was afraid of his bladder exploding or of him suddenly developing Tourette’s syndrome. The secret to overcoming these minor problems was in discovering that despite them, he could find someone who cared about him and who enjoyed spending time with him. As the Marvin family welcomed him into their lives, his other problems lost their grip on him. Similarly, as Dr. Marvin focussed so intensely on what he thought was his problem – namely, having a patient who refused to leave and having a family who wouldn’t force him to – his life degenerated quickly. He could no longer control his temper or his life, for that matter.
I get down on myself sometimes. I know I have problems. I fail God so many times a day, and then the guilt comes, and in despair I cry out to God for forgiveness. The sheer repetitiveness of this occurrence is what causes my discouragement. Each time it happens, my thoughts say to me, “This is the 7,456,398th time you’ve done this. Don’t think you’ve bothered God enough with your failure?” Each time it gets worse. Each time I think to myself, “How could God continue to love me, even after this? Maybe I should stop doing this until I’ve gotten a handle on my problems, and then I can come back to Him and have one big confessionfest to have it over with.” But oh, how wrong I am on that matter.
You see, I’m like Bob. I have problems, and I know I have them. I can see each one clearly, point them out to you, and each one weighs down on me heavily. But tonight I realized that my problem is not my problems – strange as that seems to say. No, my problem, rather, is that I haven’t fully realized God’s love. His incredible love transcends all human understanding. You see, even before I sinned 7,456,398 times, He already knew I was going to do that. And despite all those times, plus the ones that are surely still to come, He still decided to die for me. He demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. In our cases, Christ died for us before we had even become sinners – He saw ahead into the future, and He said, “I love you Jeff. I willingly give up my life so that you can have life.” And that bold and brilliant act of love is what I need to grasp ahold of. It’s that despite my failures and my shortcomings, God sent His Son to pay for them. And no matter how many more times I fail Him, they’re still already paid for, and no amount of sin is going to change that.
Here’s a thought: Jesus loved Judas. He knew that Judas would betray Him. And yet, He still let the guy sit around the table with the other disciples and share His last meal with them all. This is one of the most intimate moments of Jesus’ ministry, where He teaches them the things that they so desperately need to know before He dies and is buried for three days. During that time, He also washes their feet. And, I just checked the account in the Gospel of John, and Judas doesn’t leave until after that happens. In other words, Jesus goes around and washes each of the disciples’ feet, including the one who would, in just a short while, walk over to those who would arrest Him. And Jesus knew that! Wow.
Yeah. Jesus loved Judas, the one who betrayed Him. Jesus loved Peter, the one who denied Him. He loved the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the high priests, the ones who accused Him. He loved Pontius Pilate, the one who sentenced Him to death. He loved each Roman soldier that flogged Him, each Jew that spat on Him, each person who hurled insults at Him. And to show that love, He died for each and every one of them. And Jesus shows each one of us the same love. Even though we fail Him. Even though we deny Him. Each time we go our own way, we’re spitting in His face, and yet He simply looks at us with love and says, “I forgive you.”
This connection was made in my head, and in almost a daze, I sat on my bed and simply thought about this. Here was a guy who went through an unfair trial to die for us, so that we wouldn’t have to go through a fair trial and receive the punishment we deserve. Here’s a God who was willing to do absolutely anything He could do to save us from our own selves, and so He came down to earth and laid down His life for us. I sat and I pondered this. Then, I wrote down in my journal that I write in when doing my devotions, “God uses the failures and the weak people, because they recognize their need for Him.” Yeah, I’m a failure. I’m weak. I have problems. But I’m going to leave those for God to solve, because He knows how to fix them, and I don’t. He’s a greater psychologist than I could ever hope to be. So instead of dwelling on what I didn’t do or shouldn’t have done, I’m going to focus on what I can do and what I should do. Because I have a Friend who loves me too much to leave me the way I am.