Now it’s personal: Reclaiming a relationship with Jesus

"Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" Aunt Phoebe's question—for her it was a question about my salvation—made me cringe as a girl. When my siblings and I heard Great Aunt Phoebe's '55 Chevy Bel Air purr up the driveway, we hightailed it for the creek out behind the back forty. When I asked my mother years later why she let us get away with that, she chuckled and said on the whole she thought it was the healthier alternative. I vowed never to ask anyone Aunt Phoebe's question. It is a vow I have kept.

Lately, however, I have been revisiting the notion of having a personal relationship with Jesus.

It all began one warm spring afternoon as I was working with a group of women pastors in a Bible study that we had been calling "Luke's quest stories," a phrase used by Robert Tannehill. They are a cycle of stories in which someone approaches Jesus regarding a quest for something vitally important to human well-being. There are obstacles in the way of the quest, sometimes physical, sometimes social, psychological or spiritual. The obstacles are overcome, or not. The quest is fulfilled, or not. The stories are simple stories that many of us have known all our lives: the paralytic, the centurion with a sick slave, the woman of the city, Mary and Martha, the lepers, Zacchaeus, the rich ruler, the thieves on their crosses with Jesus, the women at the tomb. But the stories' simplicity is deceptive. The more deeply one looks at them, the more complex they seem. There is often more than one quest and sometimes more than one quester. Sometimes the quest presented is not the quest completed.