After three years of working with James Alison to put his introduction to Christianity for adults into video format, we launched Jesus, the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice, in June 2013. As part of our development of the course, last fall we invited folks to beta test it for us. Over 65 people signed up for four retreats around the country and at the time I was feeling giddy, joyful, humbled, insecure, confident, panicked – oh, yes, I felt it all!
As I reflect on my experiences after those retreats, I find myself once again on the receiving end of something that’s hard to explain, though it is becoming more and more familiar to me. My experience of reading James Alison’s books and then spending the last 3 years filming and editing video of him delivering his course, is one of finding my sense of myself and my faith shifting into a more relaxed and joyful mode. Does that make any sense? I am finding myself sifted by God as I allow myself to trust what James keeps saying in one way or another in everything he does: that God not only loves us, but likes us. That means me, too. Honestly, that is tough for me to swallow because I guess I know myself too well. I am not, in my secret heart, all that nice a person and yet the relentless hum of James’ voice in my head is, happily, wearing me down.
At the retreats James used the parable of the hidden treasure to explain this idea of God liking us. Remember that parable? It’s Matthew 13:44:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.