Her words confounded me. They came at a time when, though I was a “good Christian girl,” I found my heart paralyzed.
My freshman year of college brought anxiety like I had never known. Anxious thoughts crippled me. I lived for a semester and a half in a prison of dread—dread that I might out-sin the grace of God. I did my saintly best to overcome the attacks and lies that filled my heart and mind. Quiet times? You better believe it. Several a day, in fact. Prayer? Scripture reading? All the time. (And, of course, I made it a point to journal about the passages I read.) If only these efforts had been enough. The anxiety and shame left me defeated and my striving only sapped what little remained of my strength.
It was in this broken place that Liz, a kind and gentle lady on staff with Cru, found me. Sitting across from me on a beautiful day in Vail, Colorado, Liz patiently listened to the overflow of my heart. She saw right through the efforts that I thought made me spiritually impressive. This wise and loving woman realized that my abundant, obsessive quiet times revealed, most of all, a heart that failed to grasp the Gospel. My behavior evidenced that I placed my hope of rescue not in the blood of Jesus, but in my own efforts to make myself righteous.
On that beautiful day in Vail, Liz said it: “You just need Jesus.” I just need Jesus? How could I, a long-time Christian who knew plenty of Scripture and had more quiet times than anyone I knew, need Jesus? Didn’t I have Jesus? Wasn’t I doing everything possible to make Jesus pleased with me?
Ah. That was the problem. I thought my frantic religiosity could earn the approval of a holy God and at the same time break the chains of anxiety from my heart. Liz’s four little words pointed me back. Seven years later, when I reflect on the redemption story that Jesus is writing in my life, I always return to those four words. “You just need Jesus.”