The Problem With “It’s All About Jesus”
SEPTEMBER 15, 2020
I stood peering over the hospital bed at my swollen boy, now twice the size of his once-tiny 7-week old frame. His body was quitting: liver failure, kidney failure, heart damage, brain damage. He’d caught a virus that was killing babies and the elderly that summer, and his miniature body was shutting down.
There were incremental glimmers of hope, but that night I couldn’t see them. Each evening as the arrival of fresh staff signaled the 7 p.m. shift change, I would walk across the parking lot at Children’s Hospital alone to the motorhome my in-laws had lent to me, and every morning at 7 a.m. I would return to sit at my baby’s side for another 12 hours.
And on it went for two straight weeks.
One night as I sang softly over him, hoping in his unconscious state that he might hear my words and feel comforted, the quiet noises of the machines that kept him alive were drowned under the sudden wail of distress. Out in the hallway, just five feet on the other side of the wall stood a mother crying out at the loss of her daughter.
We had timidly watched for three days as the teenager was dying, not wanting to be an intrusion but necessarily skirting past her door as we headed for our baby’s room there in the PICU. That night felt like a sudden blow, when you know what’s coming like a subway train speeding under the dark tunnel toward you but still catching you off guard as it whizzes past and takes your breath away.
As I listened to that mama wail at her loss, I too wept. And somewhere in the midst of the noise and stunning sorrow, I heard God’s gentle whisper: “Me, Kendra. It’s all about Me.”
In that singular moment my eyes widened and my heart began to race. What were we doing? We were bound up tightly in our own self righteousness, arguing within our church body about dress lengths and head coverings, eschatology and orthopraxy. There was no hope in that. Our faith lay flat, separated from the One who snatched us out of our own desperation in the first place. In fact, we had done exactly what the Israelites had so many times before us: we had shifted our hope from the God who gives us gushing, never-ending waterfalls of the stuff to those gifts He has given us, and those very gifts had put us into bondage as we sought to elevate them above the Giver.
Gifts like family. Educational choices. Theology. Doctrine. Those things are often the tools that God uses to set us on a path that crafts lives of obedience to Him, but when we look to our behavior and choices — whether they be worldly (sex, money, fame) or religious (church, Bible study, service) — we have made a shoddy substitute for the Savior, who stands at the middle and beckons us to remember the simple gospel truth that He has paid it all and it is finished.
A year after we brought our son home from the hospital with permanent brain damage and an unknown future, we sat in a Starbucks with a well-meaning church leader who listened to me tell the story of the wailing mother. When I finished by saying, “It’s all about Jesus!”, He replied, “Well, you know the problem when we say ‘It’s all about Jesus’ is that we forget that we’re to move beyond the gospel and do.”
All I could muster after the shock of his statement reverberated straight through to my core was a saddened acknowledgement that it was time to pull ourselves out of a community that tried so hard to measure our worth by our religious behavior and beliefs, when the measure had already been made at the cross, by the only One who can ever meet the standard.
And that’s the crux. The cross. Our lives had been shaken by the life-threatening disease that ravaged our little one’s brain and body, by the death of a girl unknown to us but known by the God who had created her and could bring comfort to her devastated mother.
As we moved forward that year, we were further challenged by trials that pulled the very religious foundations upon which we stood straight out from underneath our already wobbling legs. We were stripped down to the gospel, and from that gospel center, we began to find healing. Jesus and only Jesus. It’s at the cross where we find the strength to do anything at all.
Kendra Fletcher is the mother of 8, speaker for groups and conferences around the country, columnist for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, author of two eBooks, and podcaster on HomeschoolingIRL. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including Crosswalk.com, Arizona Home Education Journal, and Washington Family Magazine.
This post originally appeared last year on Key Life.
She blogs at www.kendrafletcher.com, www.homeschoolingIRL.com, and www.preschoolersandpeace.com. Find her on Twitter: @KendraEFletcher