I bought a hammock my freshman year.
In the midst of a whirlwind of destructive emotions—developed from leaving the known world of high school and entering into the great unknown that followed—my stress levels flew high enough to be considered a kite.
It was in the middle of this emotional crisis that I decided to buy a hammock. I followed through on this purchase with hopeful expectations that my anxieties would be cured, or if anything, give my frequent panic attacks a comfortable spot to pass.
I spent countless hours lazing on the hammock, swinging gently as the sun cooked my skin and tiny bugs feasted on it. I read short books and took long naps. And I listened to plenty of music.
Oh, the music. It is rather difficult to blast heavy metal while seeking relaxation on a hammock, so I developed an acquired taste for a more moderate type of music—Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Artie Shaw. It became the sweetest of summers, and the nostalgic time machine that now sits in my mind often transports me back without permission.
But when I really think on that summer, it is the clouds hanging carelessly above that tops everything else (literally). How beautiful those clouds were! How white and fluffy and unique each one wandered so highly above. I would lie down to nap after a long, stressful day of worrying and instead find myself wide-eyed and in awe of the majesty displayed overhead. Like television without the eye strain, the big blue ocean above drew me in. The endless display of clouds held me captive.
It was also in the summer of 2013 that I grasped onto another source of comfort—this one not a soft, swinging bed with a breathless view, but instead a person who symbolized life, joy and peace. I found God—or, more correctly, God found me—and I began to eagerly seek a relationship with him that mimicked that of Adam and Eve (you know, before the fruit and the snake that talked like something straight out of “The Jungle Book”).
In the midst of great confusion and even greater darkness, a hammock with a front-row view of the sky and a relationship with Jesus seemed to untangle the knots so tightly twisted in my mind.
I read my bible. I looked at clouds. I prayed out loud. I listened to the Chattanooga Choo Choo on repeat. In a matter of mere days, my life had gone from a drawn-out, depressing Facebook status to a killer Instagram photo with a sweet filter.
Life. Was. Good.
A few months passed and the newness of everything began to fade, like dew evaporating as the sun rises, like Manna at night. The weather became chillier and the knots inside my mind started to return. In the snowy winter of 2013, my hammock was no longer available and Jesus didn’t seem to be untangling the knots twisting tighter each moment. The winter was cold in every way.
At first, I pushed everything aside as an ‘off day’. Then an off week. When my thoughts grew hazier and the feelings inside returned to darkness, I started to panic (no longer having a hammock to rest my panic attacks on, I resorted to suppressing them and hanging on for dear life until they passed).
Somewhere between the fading newness of Jesus and the inevitable reality of life happening, I began to believe that Jesus was simply not enough.
Jesus—or, more accurately, the “Cliché Jesus” created by my mind—failed.
You know the clichés everyone and their atheist mother know about Christianity? The ones we are told over and over again from a pulpit or a nice-sounding podcast with a catchy intro but seem to have no significance when faced with real life situations? The clichés like “God’s got you”—for when your heart is shattered because of a messy break-up; or “Don’t worry, Jesus has your back”—when you find yourself balancing school, work and an unexpected child on the way?
These clichés, pounded into our head like a broken record, prove to actually be very true statements—of course God is always with us and of course Jesus has us covered.
But in the midst of life and its constantly tiring circumstances, these clichés become less and less attractive. When you’re gasping for air and you find life sinking its boots deeper and deeper into your chest, when the newness and freshness of the good things you’ve experienced begin to fade away, when winter time arrives and the hammock starts sleeping in the shed like a bad dog, a Cliché Jesus is simply not enough! We need real hope in a real Jesus.
When Jesus becomes a list of cute phrases or a fish on a bumper sticker or a lame shirt that says “Jesus is my homeboy” (edit out ‘lame’ so as not to offend the guy currently wearing this), his holiness is dissolved and he no longer is who he says he is—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (whoops, wrong story). Exchanging an almighty, eternal, infinite God for a list of overused sayings does not do justice to the loving savior who is continually begging us to stop dancing so closely and carelessly to the unquenchable fires of hell.
We cannot waste time following a Cliché Jesus; we must make room for the real Christ to reign supremely inside our very beings. Let us face every circumstance—whether good or bad—with the real hope displayed in the real Christ, hope that shines brighter than a lighthouse on dark, troubled seas. Let us possess real hope in a real Jesus instead of holding onto cute, meaningless sayings that undermine the greatness of an almighty God.
I bought a hammock my freshman year. And it was the greatest summer of my life.