The Real Deal

I have decided that I want the real deal in my life. I have had so much that has been a reproduction, manufactured, off-brand, just not real. Nothing beats the real thing.

Take cheese for instance. I’m quite sure I’m in the minority, but I can’t stand sliced American cheese. I haven’t always felt that way. For many years my household consumed multiple packs of sliced American cheese a month. Hamburgers, sandwiches, grilled cheese. We always used sliced American.

Nothing wrong with it, and I’m sure it’s actually considered “real” cheese. But to my taste buds, it’s not. It’s not cheddar. Cheddar (in my world) is the real deal. And not just cheddar, I’m talking about Sharp Cheddar. Mild cheddar is good, but it’s no sharp cheddar. (If I want a real treat I’ll get Extra Sharp Cheddar.)

Sharp cheddar has real flavor. No doubt about what you’ve got in your mouth when you eat it. You know it’s there. It’s real. It’s strong. Not so much with sliced American. Even those who really like it have to admit it’s pretty bland.

After my life changed, and my likes and dislikes became the only ones I had to contend with, I switched to buying Cheddar slices rather than American slices. I had a cookout one day and bought a pack of American for the hamburgers, and had some left over. Went to make a sandwich some days later and realized I was out of the Cheddar slices, so I just slapped an American on there. Yuck. I took one bite and thought “blech”. (I ate the sandwich anyway, but I did NOT enjoy it.)

Just like with the cheese, I long for a real, authentic relationship with God. I’ve tried the fake versions, I’ve tried not having one at all. Since Jesus came and found me, we have had a real, honest, raw relationship. I can be totally real, totally transparent with Him. Even with all my flaws and attitudes and whining, my stubbornness, my unwillingness to give Him the parts of me that He wants. It’s real.

I had a weird thing happen after I started writing this blog. I felt like I was standing outside my relationship with Him, as an observer. Felt like going through the motions, standing there with a notepad and jotting down “sound bites”, quote-worthy, note-worthy items. I think that hurt His heart. I know it hurt mine.

I missed Him. Two days ago I posted my first blog, and I missed Him. We talked last night and this morning, and I told Him I didn’t want to do this if I couldn’t have a real relationship with Him. He has to come first. He has to be my focus. He has to be my lifeline. I’ll drown otherwise. I’ve already tried to do this life on my own and made a mess of it. I don’t want to go down that road again.

It occurred to me that He has become everything to me. I live alone, but I’m never lonely. He’s always there. He’s who I talk to, share my day with, share my frustrations and disappointments with. He has been so good to me and has drawn me so close to Him over the last few weeks. Close enough that when I stepped back, I missed Him. I’m so thankful.

I’ve been lonely a lot in my life. Most of it was my own fault and a result of brokenness inside of me that pushed me to push everyone away. That brokenness also drove me to cling to some people, suffocating them. Setting them up as “gods” in my heart. Looking to them to meet my every need, then pushing them away when they didn’t. No one has to tell me that’s not healthy. I’m very well aware. Now anyway.

Everyone I tried to put in that place in my life, the one that meets my needs, satisfies me, loves me the way I need to be loved, has failed. I pity them for having to bear up under the weight of expectation that I placed on them. They all were absolutely incapable of meeting those expectations. And the attempts left me with a yucky taste in my mouth. Like American cheese. Just bland, blah, blech.

I found the real deal. Or rather, He found me. (He actually came down and got me. He knew where I was all the while, He was just waiting patiently till I got to the point that I knew He was my only choice. I’m glad He has that kind of patience.) Ten years ago, even two years ago, I would give a passing thought to upgrading to the real deal, but I was so used to the counterfeit that I thought I was satisfied.

I’m so glad I have found out I was wrong. Sooooo wrong. He is the Sharp Cheddar. He’s full-flavor. Nothing mild or bland about Him. And He’s drawn me to Him so much that even a couple days of switching out for American was two days too many.

I don’t know who may read this, but I hope you have the real deal my friend. If you don’t, why are you settling? I pray that God calls you to Himself. I pray that He will remove all obstacles, anything that is keeping you from a real, honest, raw relationship with the One who created you, the only One who can love you the way you need to be loved. Maybe you’re used to the substitutes. Maybe you aren’t even aware that there’s something better. I pray He’ll introduce Himself to you. He not only can, but longs to meet every one of your needs. Your real needs…not what you think are your needs.

There’s a story in the bible about a woman who met Jesus one day at a well. There’s a lot of fascinating details in that story that I’m not going to get into here (but study it for yourself; you don’t want to miss it, it’s really cool). The nuts and bolts of the story is that the woman approached the well in the middle of the day, one assumes to avoid all the other women in her village since that was an atypical time to go to the well. There’s a Man at the well who asks her for a drink. (Lots of rules broken by that one request…it’s part of the other details.) She basically asked Him why He was asking her for a drink. He replied that if she knew who He was she would be asking Him and He would give her living water. She points out the obvious, that He has nothing to draw water with, and asks where He’s going to get this “living” water. He tells her that whoever drinks the water from that well would thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water He would give would never thirst again, and the water would become in that person a well of water springing up to eternal life. Well, all she heard was “never thirst again”, and (this is my assumption) she figured that was the best deal she’d heard in a while. Because if she didn’t have to come back to that well to draw water she wouldn’t have to chance running into the other women in the village. You see, she was ashamed.

He goes on to tell her a lot of details about her own life, details she probably didn’t want anyone discussing, details she was ashamed of, the details that necessitated her coming to the well in the middle of the day.

I’ve been that woman. One who has a lot of details about my life that I really don’t want anyone discussing. So I get her shame. I get that on a gut-deep level. I get why she isolated herself.

But Jesus wanted to meet her real need. She thought she just needed water. But she needed a Savior. She needed to be loved. To be known. To have Someone who knew all the ugly details about her life, her choices, her failures…and loved anyway. He wanted real with her. He offered her a real relationship. Authentic. The Real Deal.

What are you ashamed of? He can heal that shame. What do you long for in the dead of night when no one is around? He can touch that longing. He’s not a Genie in the sky, or a Cosmic Vending Machine…but you see, we don’t really need that. We need our hearts to touch our Creator. We need a Savior. We need to be filled with Him. We need Him.

So many hurting, broken people on this planet. So many settling for substitutes. So many who don’t even know there’s a better life, a better way. Come to Jesus. His arms are open wide. He’s the Real Deal.

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