Strength And Peace In The Presence Of Jesus
By: Laura Richardson
A Bay Area native, Laura now plants her feet in San Francisco and leads a Community Group in the Inner Sunset. Laura has been a part of the RSF community since 2010 and currently manages communications for a healthcare startup. She enjoys cooking with friends, seeking out sunshine, and running in Golden Gate Park. As a writer, Laura blogs at Waiting For The End Of The Sentence and hopes to help people overcome fear and experience life in abundance.
What does the gospel of John represent to you?
I love how important words are to John. As a writer, words are my life’s blood, and I think John would have felt similarly. He uses words to shift people’s paradigms and point to the new reality found in Jesus’ life and resurrection. Beyond that, he highlights the importance of God’s words. The Word – the “logos” – has power. It creates something real and tangible. And just as God spoke creation into being, so He spoke life into our world through sending His son to come walk and talk with us.
John’s gospel is so beautiful to me because it highlights those personal interactions with Jesus. And it reminds me that Jesus is just as present with me now as He was with His disciples thousands of years ago. I like to imagine what it would be like if Jesus were physically with me. What would His body language be toward me? I imagine He’d hold me close when I’m afraid. What would He speak to me? I imagine His words would be gentle and sometimes challenging. I imagine He’d call my name, like He called to Mary Magdalene, and I’d recognize Him and go run and tell everyone the good news of how He’s been speaking into my life. At least, that’s what I aim to do here in San Francisco and wherever God may take me.
How is The Lord speaking to you through it?
God is increasing my understanding of my need for Him. I’m realizing that I’m often anxious because I have a tendency to think it’s all about me and therefore that it’s all up to me. I’ve been putting all that weight on myself. And why? It’s honestly because I’m prideful and selfish. And what is pride if not the root of all sin? Sin is a weight, a burden. We feel the reality of it in our lives in our strained friendships, challenges at work, and even in our broken bodies. Sin creates a reality that breaks off our connection to each other, ourselves, and ultimately God.
Sin is being cut off from God’s grace, love, and power. We sin when we say, “I think I know what to do here,” or, “I want to fix this myself.” Sin is both thinking too highly (pride) and too lowly (pity) of ourselves. Why do we do this? I think it’s because inside us, there’s this seed of sin that longs to be like God – to be recognized for our accomplishments. Like our ancestors Adam and Eve, we have a tendency to assume we know how to experience life best – we want that fruit, that guy, that job. But our attempts always fall short when we’re just relying on ourselves.
What does “Jesus Is Reality” mean to you?
Jesus is reality means that He is the truer and greater everything in my life. He’s more real than my fears, He’s stronger than my doubts, He’s more present than my pains, and He’s greater than my own desires. He is the focal point of my life and the only true filter that helps me process both the bright and dark spots along the way. He’s the good shepherd, leading me by the still waters and through the valley of the shadow of death. He’s greater than my circumstances. He is Reality.
When I let the reality of Jesus sink deep into my heart and bring new life to my bones, my eyes are opened to see more of Him and to rely less on external circumstances or other people to bring me life. Because I know they can’t. Only in Christ will I ever feel alive and full. I have a feeling, though, that it’s going to take me a lifetime to learn that.
How has seeing Jesus as the ultimate reality changed the way you live in and interact with your city?
Knowing that Jesus is my ultimate reality has made it possible for me to walk through some tough periods of anxiety over the past couple years. I had begun to fear San Francisco, avoid the crowds, dread MUNI, all because I was afraid of passing out – something that has happened to me a few times and landed me in the hospital once. I was afraid of passing out with no one to help me, and I was afraid of losing consciousness and being embarrassed by my frailty.
When I began to recognize that Jesus was present with me and within me, the anxiety slowly started to fade. I realized that the same power that raised Christ from the dead was living in me – He was bringing me back to life. Recognizing that I had the power of Christ in me also helped me look outward more. Instead of being afraid of my circumstances, I began to ask God, “Who do you want me to interact with? What do you have for me here?” Looking for God in my circumstances has helped strengthen my trust in Him and be more open to how He wants to lead and use me.
Has this series stirred any hopes or dreams in you for your life or the life of our beloved city?
As a writer, my hope is to point people to God in order to help them overcome fear and anxiety and live more authentic, grace-filled lives. In this city, I see so many people – my own self included – hustling for their self-worth. We avoid stillness in order to ignore our loneliness. We chase after the “next thing” – whether a vocation or a relationship – thinking that it will bring fulfillment and give meaning to our endeavors. But in the end, it always leaves us wanting. Unless that thing – or rather, person – is Jesus.
Jesus is the only real bread, the real food, the real life. He is the only thing that satisfies because He knows what I need to be satisfied. And I hope that as I continue to let this truth sink down deep into my soul and change me, I can invite people into the journey and encourage them to let go of their lives too in order to find true life in Christ – the only true reality.
This piece is a part of our Journey Through John blog series, that invites our community to share their personal reflections through our study in the book of John. For more posts, visit our table of contents.