Left on the Cutting Floor

At the top of this post, I’ve included a screenshot of the “context index” I kept while writing my book. Before I started compiling my chapters, I started by writing stories. These stories were what eventually became the bedrock of my chapters. But, as it goes, not all the stories made it. Between my first and final manuscript, I had to cut almost 30,000 words!

In this installment of my article series, I’m going to share with you some of those stories. Who knows: Maybe there’s a second book in here somewhere?

Story No. 1 — Tchotchke Jesus

This story centered around a phenomenon I call “tchotchke Jesus.” As a child, one of my favorite times of the year was Christmastime. Nothing else compared to a day spent at the Christmas tree farm. But by seventh or eighth grade, my family traded in the real tree for a fake tree, and every year, like clockwork, down from the attic came the fake tree, along with all the other ornaments and decorations.

I’ve found that sometimes, the same can happen in our relationship with God. This is “tchotchke Jesus,” a “Jesus” that only comes out at holidays or when we are reallystruggling. But the problem with tchotchke Jesus is that he’s no Jesus at all. He’s an idol, a lackluster representation of the true God. Nor can tchotchke Jesus truly save or transform our lives like the real Jesus can.

So, what do we do with tchotchke Jesus? Here’s an excerpt:

“It’s time to trade in our fake tchotchke Jesus for real relationship with the true King. That means humbling ourselves before Him, submitting our desires and dreams at His feet, and repenting of the wrong ideas we’ve had about Jesus and trusted in above Him. All so that we can stop mindlessly going through the motions of meaningless rituals and traditions and invest in real intimacy with Jesus.

It’s time to keep tchotchke Jesus where he belongs, in the attic with all our other fake possessions, and remove the idols we’ve placed on the mantle of our hearts so that Jesus can enter in and reign in and through us forevermore. That’s what the real Jesus does.”

Story No. 2 — A Bad Taste

This story started out with a recount of an April Fool’s Joke my eighth-grade student teacher played on our class. Here’s an excerpt:

“It was a mild and sunny April Fool’s day when my unsuspecting, naive classmates and myself came into our homeroom that morning to find some finely dusted jelly donuts on the counter. I was all over them in an instant. But much to my dismay, they were not filled with jelly. They were filled with ketchup. It was absolutely gross.

What sticks out to me about that experience though is not the initial bite, but the fact that throughout the remainder of the day, there was the constant lingering bad taste of ketchup in my mouth. Even though none of my other friends believed me, I still hold to this day that the strong taste of ketchup lasted for the entire rest of the day.

In other words: it left a bad taste.”

I used this story to talk about sin. Sin is just like that ketchup donut masquerading as a jelly donut. It looks good and tasty on the outside, but whenever we bite into it, it always ends up leaving a bad taste that lingers in the mouth. Regardless of how good and beautiful the fruit might look on the outside, we can always be sure it will disappoint. The jelly donut we had hoped for will always turn out to be a ketchup donut. As such, we need to take great care as to what we are consuming. In the same way we go to the gas station to fill up our tanks with gas, not hot water, we need to fill up our hearts with what is good, right, and honorable. Then we won’t be stuck with such a bad taste lingering in our mouths.

Story No. 3 — Embracing the Humanity of Jesus

This story was in reference to something I learned from Hebrews 4:15–16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NRSV).

Understanding this verse was a huge paradigm shift for me and changed my life. Here’s what I learned:

“What I found is that embracing the humanity in Jesus actually freed me to embrace the Jesus in me. When I understood that Jesus was tempted in every way I was, but never sinned, it taught me two things: (1) temptation in and of itself isn’t a sin. It’s what we do with temptation that makes it sin or not sin. That set me free from the oppressive and unattainable goal of never being tempted again in my life, and from the shame I tended to put on myself regarding that false belief. (2) It opened me up to truly receive God’s grace and help. Because here’s the thing: if Jesus was tempted in every way, but never sinned, it means that I can do it too! It means you can do it too!

How, you ask?

When we accept Jesus into our lives, we become the born-again new creation, which means that we have died to our old life (our slavery to sin), and now become alive again to the Spirit of God and the ways of righteousness and holiness. The blood of Jesus covers us and presents us before God as righteous and holy, and God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who produces the life of Jesus inside us and through us. Now, when God sees us, He sees us through the blood of Jesus, which washes us completely clean from all faults, stains, and blemishes. He no longer sees our past but sees us as His beloved son and/or daughter, made completely new.

The humanity of Jesus is what sets us free to live like Jesus. If you’re in pain right now: take heart, Jesus is with you. If you’re struggling with sin and temptation right now: take heart, Jesus knows the way out. If you’re broken and fighting to get up in the morning: take heart, Jesus’ love can heal any wound and bring life to your weary soul.

If you need help: embrace the humanity of Jesus. It’s here, right now, and it will set you free to embrace the Jesus in you.”

In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, Thriving by Following. I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did enjoy it and want to stay up to date, you can reach me here via email, or connect with me on Instagram. You can also find my book on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback.

Writer and musician based in Cleveland, Ohio.

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