E18: Jesus Loves Me, This I DON'T Know
What questions do you have for Steph or Beth?
Questions for Reflection
Each episode we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. You might pause the podcast and answer them right then and there, but if you keep a journal (Steph and Beth both do), you might find one of these PDFs useful. Choose the orientation that fits best in your journal.
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Where we have honest conversations about things that make us different.
And I'm Beth.
I've been in recovery for 13 plus years and I am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about my mental health struggles, experiences in faith.
I'm a lawyer turned pastor, who's all about self-awareness and emotional health because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Beth and I had been friends for six years, have gone through a recovery program together and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as co-host.
I didn't hesitate to say yes because I've learned a lot from honest conversations with Steph over the years.
We value honest conversations and we hope you do, too.
That's why we do this and why we want you to be part of what we are discussing today. Hey Steph, what's our topic today?
Today we are talking about "Jesus Loves Me, This I Don't Know."
That's not how this song--
Do you know the song that we're referring to? That we're changing up the words to. Do you know? Do you know, Beth?
I think people know.
I don't know. Maybe we should sing it for them.
Do you know the words?
I don't know if I remember them-
I know the words.
Can I give you a beat, Beth?
Okay, give me a beat.
But I can't. That's like I have to speak it. I can't just speak it. I have to sing it-
We'll do a spoken word version of it. Go! Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves you! Yes, Jesus loves Us! The Bible tells us so.
Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong. Yes. Jesus loves you. Yes. Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves us. My Bible tells us so.
Whew. That was not rehearsed folks and I hope you didn't turn off the podcast.
Sadly, it's true. That was not rehearsed.
And we did mix up the words. We didn't mix them up. We changed up the words a little bit.
When my kids were babies and I would sing to them at night. I would always change the words to that song because it felt weird to me to sing to them. Hey, guess what, little one? Jesus loves ME and I know this because the Bible tells me that Jesus loves ME. So instead I would sing to them about how Jesus loves them and how Jesus loves us. How Jesus loves you.
And we changed it up without even realizing we just did it.
We're so off the cuff. I know--
We were just in the flow--
We were having a moment--
That was a moment, wow!
We should tell them though. We spent about 20 minutes trying to find a public domain version of that song before we started it. Then we're just like whatever. We'll just figure it out in the moment.
Figure it out. And thank goodness we were recording. Cause that was gold.
That was gold. That was Podcast gold right there.
And that's really good cause there was that one time we redid a whole episode and we weren't recording. That was not gold guys.
Shh. Don't tell them!
That was not great. Well, I think we've talked about Christianity and God and Jesus and all that stuff before in our Podcast. And that's something that we talk about cause we both are Christ followers. Beth, as you know, is a Super Pastor. I added super because she's the best.
Definitely not in my title. Super is definitely not in my title.
I'm going to make new business cards guys. It'll be okay. I guess we both know that Jesus loves us. But I think there's a lot of people that don't know that. And that's very simplistic, Jesus loves me. It's a very simplistic word. And I think sometimes Christianity is dumbed down into simplistic things. And I think that can be harmful. Am I off base? What do you think about that?
So it is really simplistic, but it's also so powerfully true. I mean, it's just a small collection of words to say, Jesus loves you or to say, Jesus loves me. But the truth that is in that is very powerful, when we can really let ourselves feel that. But I don't know that it always gets communicated in a way where it can be received as something that is honest and true. And that's a real shame. There's this concept that Jesus loves you. Jesus loves everyone, which I agree with. But as humans and as free thinkers, why does that matter? And I know growing up, one of the things that was told to me, a big reason for why that matters is if you don't accept Jesus, you're going to Hell.
Well, that's a little intense. To me, that's not a good enough reason. Like, I'm living in the here and now. Why do I accept Jesus today when I could accept him on my death bed and then I will go to heaven? Right? Right, Pastor Beth?
I mean, I do think that is something that people say. We do have signs popping up around town now, like on the telephone polls that say "today, or else!" Right? Accept Jesus today, or else! In marketing, I think they would call that creating a sense of urgency, right? Like this item is on sale only for a limited time. So you've got to buy it today because it might not be here tomorrow. And I think in some ways Christianity has has given in to that easy impulse or that easing easy marketing approach when really our faith should be, (you know, we don't like to use the should word around here), but our faith really should be about something much, much deeper. And I think in that, we would access the love of God in a way that is much truer.
So why except Jesus now instead of on your deathbed? Well, first of all, I'm not even sure about that idea of accepting Jesus. I'm not always sure what people mean when they say that. But I would say that in my experience in my own life, my life is fuller and more whole and feels more abundant, not in terms of material things, but just in terms of love and loving kindness. All of that is present in more abundance when I am spending time with the God who loves me. And how do I know that God loves me? I know that God loves me because I know God through the person of Jesus Christ.
If I waited until the end of my life to say, "Oh okay God, now I've got my 95 years in. I've done it my way for 95 years. Now I'm ready to say, "Sure, let's be on board together." I think I would have missed out on decades of relationship with God that make my life better.
Yeah. I will have to say when I was 6 is when I accepted Christ. Whatever that fully means. To me, it meant I accepted that Jesus was bigger than me and was someone I wanted to follow the principles of in me and believe in something bigger than myself. And I believed that this was a real person. Unlike Santa. Referring to last week's episode. And for me, I'll have to say though, when I was 6, the reason why I wanted to have Jesus in my life was because I was told in church that day that if you walk outside and get hit by a car and you don't know you're going to heaven, you need to accept Christ today.
That was the reason why I made that choice at 6. So it worked. The fear worked on me. I don't agree with that. I don't think that's a great way to go. But it did work for me at a young age. And because I did that at such a young age, I feel like I had a purpose in life. I have something. Not to go back to our last week's episode, but like Santa, they say he's always watching you.
Well, I think God's always watching me and not in a weird way. So I don't think, Oh, is someone watching? Maybe I can steal a cookie from the cookie jar because no one's watching. Someone's always watched me. God's always watching me and that gives me comfort actually.
It gives me comfort that I'm never alone. I always have a presence with me and I'm not just alone on this planet just trying to figure stuff out. I have someone that's always encouraging me and helping me and motivating me to go in the right direction. And so for me, I can't imagine life without Jesus in it. I mean it's a hard concept because you can't see touch, taste. So how do you know it's real? I mean-
Hawaiian bread Jesus? I get to take Jesus every Sunday.
You can taste Jesus. But like for me, I know that he loves me because he brought you in my life, Beth. He helped this podcast come about. He gave me the most beautiful, wonderful dog in the world, Mack. And he gave me great parents that I've learned from and I've had struggles with, but have stood by me and have provided for me. And those are the ways that I know that Jesus loves me and that I have a better life because he's in it.
But to me, I live in the here and now. So knowing that I'm going to heaven or hell is not a big daily occurrence for me. I don't really spend a lot of time thinking about it. Afterlife is kind of a big concept that I don't need to spend a lot of time on. I think I'm going to heaven. I hope I am, based on the simplistic version. I've accepted Christ so I'm going to heaven. But that's not my every day motivation for praying. Is that your motivation, Beth?
It's not my motivation. There was a season where I really worried about this. And I really worried about people who I care about who are completely outside of the church. I don't think they're outside of Christianity. But let's say they're outside of church. And I really worried about what was God doing. And I finally decided that I know, I know-know. Know, know, know. K-N-O-W. I know that I can trust God right here and right now. And if I can trust God with my present, then I have to trust God with my future. And I have to trust God with the people I love.
So I know God to be trustworthy. And so it's not that eternity or some sense of an eternal destination. Does that matter to me? It just is so far outside of my control that I am comfortable leaving that to the God who I know to be love.
So Jesus loves me. It is simple, but it is really true. And I don't know why we want to shortcut it and make it just about if you die tonight, where are you going?
I do have to say, I didn't grow up in a church that had that as its paradigm. But I grew up in a community with a lot of churches that had that as the paradigm. So a lot of times when I hear that kind of thing, I feel like I'm looking at it from the outside. I don't feel like it represents my faith because it wasn't part of my foundational faith. So I would just say I look at that kind of more like an outsider. My faith foundation has always been about relationship with God and about the fact that God is love and about the fact that God is always reaching out to humanity to try to build a relationship. And that our free will is whether or not we're going to accept that relationship.
So I think that stereotype that's portrayed is by knowing Jesus loved me, and by accepting Jesus, my life is going to be better. I'm going to have only good times. Do you feel like that's an accurate depiction of life as a Christian?
I don't feel like that's an accurate depiction of life as a Christian. I don't even think that's a biblical picture of what life with God is like. When you really dive into the biblical stories, you've got the people who God has chosen and they've been enslaved and they're living in these terrible conditions. God comes to them and says, "I have a different life for you." Moses, I want you to lead my people. Pharaoh, let my people go, and nothing about that journey was easy, right?
So there's a biblical model right there where it wasn't easy. If you back up from that and you go to the story of Joseph. The one with the amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, his brothers threw him in a well. And he spent time in prison under false charges. Nothing about his life was easy. If you fast forward past the Moses story and you look at the life of King David. There's no one in the Bible who's described as being closer to God or more in God's favor than King David. And he has a son who tries to use usurp his power. Nothing about that was easy, right?
So I don't know. I don't know about this idea that life should be easy. I don't think life was easy for the disciples when they were following Jesus. I don't think that life was easy for them. After the crucifixion and resurrection and ascension.
We have pretty well documented church history about the martyrdom that happened. And we believe that Paul wrote a huge chunk of the New Testament but that he was executed by the Roman government. So I don't know why we think that life should be easy for Christians.
I totally don't think life is easier as a Christian, but I only have experience as such. There's been moments of my life where I prayed about what to do next. And the thing that I was hearing was next for me was the scariest thing. The scariest option and the hardest option. And I mean writing my book, that was a scary thing to do. Releasing my book, finding a publishing company, publishing my book was a scary, scary thing to do, was a hard thing to do.
And the only way I was able to do it was because God was behind me. And he said, "this is the time." And I was like, but I don't know. I'm really scared and I don't think I can do it. And he said, "you can do it and I'm right here. And it's going to be hard and I'm really proud that you're able to do this, that you're doing it."
And I'm still scared every day--
About it. I'm still like, Oh my gosh, I'm talking about real deep stuff. And I've had some training with my publishing company and I learned all these new things and it's like, how do you sum up your book in one line? How do you really sell your message? I'm like, what's my message? I don't know. So I'm working on that. Hopefully God will just magically tell me what that is.
And I'm here to say that it would be fun if God was magical and things just happen. Magic doesn't happen. It's interesting because there are times when Santa and God get compared. And Santa brings you all these wonderful gifts. So then you're like oh, well God's like Santa. He brings me all these wonderful gifts.
Well, he does bring wonderful gifts. But it's not that very cut and dry. Like here's a present, unwrap it. Like he brought me Mac. But it was a hard first few months with her. The first week with her, I was like, I'm more stressed than I've ever been. Even though it's not like I have a gift and now everything's better.
That's been my experience and I've written a book, and now everything's great. No, now I've got to market it. Now I've got to tell people about it. Now I got to do the vulnerable thing and speak about my book, which on most days I'm excited about. And some days I'm like let me get in my clamshell and just sit.
Yeah, so for me I've realized there are times that potentially are harder being a Christian because I'm stepping on faith a lot of times and it's out of my comfort zone. Do you feel that way, Beth?
I often feel like God is pushing me outside of my comfort zone, which gets back to trust and believing that that just because it's hard doesn't mean that it's the wrong thing to do. I also would say that I deeply experience the truth of God's unconditional love in those really hard times.
So I've written about this and we can put a link to it in the show notes. But if I were just sitting back and looking at it, I would think, Oh yeah. When everything is going really well then I'll be able to experience God's love because it's like nothing is in the way. Everything is working out right. And that hasn't been true for me. It's been the opposite that when times are really hard and I'm really feeling like I'm at the end of myself and nothing is going right and I'm not even lovable. Those are the moments when I felt the peace of God. What some people would say is the peace that passes understanding. I have felt that unconditional love of God in those moments. And I get it that if you haven't experienced that, I probably sound like an insane person. I totally hear that. I totally understand that. But I can't deny the reality of what I have experienced.
I have experienced that understanding that I am loved unconditionally. I think that that was offered to me my whole life. I think my parents have always offered me unconditional love. I think my siblings have offered me unconditional love. My husband, my children. I didn't understand it until I experienced the unconditional love of God. Then that's something that's totally different and life changing. And should change how I live.
Do you think you can feel God's love without loving yourself?
I do. I do. I think that experiencing God's love helps me love myself. So I don't think that there's a prerequisite, the certain amount that you have to love yourself or like yourself or understand your own lovability before you can experience the love of God.
I think it's the other way around. I think that God's love opens our hearts and our minds to really be able to understand that and experience it.
Is God and Jesus two different people?
Yes and no.
Christianity is complicated.
There's no shorthand way that explain the Trinity. The Trinity is a mystery. We as Christians believe in a Trinitarian God, who is the Three-and-One. The three persons of the one Trinity. We worship only one God. God is always God, Jesus and the Spirit.
So I think that there are sort of two ways to think about it. And if in seminary you were to write on your paper that God and Jesus are the same person, you'd get a big fat red X. Because God, the Father is one person of the Trinity and Jesus is the second person of the Trinity and the Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. And so we would not say that they are the same person. There are three different persons, but they are one God.
How do you explain the Trinity to a child?
What do you tell a child about Jesus?
Jesus loves you this I know. For the Bible tells me so. That's what I would tell a child. That's the foundational truth. That God loves you. I know that God loves you because I've experienced God through the power of the Spirit to understand the person and work of Jesus Christ.
But other religions think that we're tritheiests. Tri- being three like that we worship three gods and we don't. There's just one Triune God. And the more that we talk about it, the less sense it makes. I get that. And I don't think the church does a good job talking about it.
I think even if you listen to Christian music, you hear very little reference to the Trinity. You have to go back to some of the old hymns to really be able to sing about the Trinity. I don't think in--
Well, there's a song I'm thinking that the God had Three in One Father, Son and Holy. There's a song, or is it a hymn? I don't know. There's a song that when you're talking about the Trinity, the song was playing my head. I think it's more of a modern song, but it could be at hymn.
I'm not exactly sure what song that is, but I don't have the best memory for music either. So it totally could be.
I just think that churches have--
Well it's complicated, right? It's complicated..
And people don't like complication. We want a simple one word. What do I believe? Okay. Done. I think that's pretty much human nature. I mean look at brands.
If I say just do it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If I say I'm loving it, you know where I'm talking about, I'm loving it. Okay. Golden arches.
Oh that's a McDonald's thing.
I didn't even go there and I know that.
No, well I mean the days of DVR, I'm not in the commercials-
Yeah but that was the '00s.
Because Justin Timberlake recorded that. But like we want that simple to understand phrase.
I think we also want to be able to explain what we believe and why we believe it in a way that really comes to us through the Enlightenment and our ability to learn and explain and rationalize everything. We want to be very scientific about things and God is just bigger than that.
So I wouldn't describe God as magic cause I think that can be a confusing term. I do think God does magical things though. But I would describe God as supernatural. God is outside of nature. God created nature. So, therefore God is outside of it. God's also outside of time. So I think that we go to shortcut that and just be like, here's a simple explanation that we can all wrap our minds around and we can all agree to and we can explain it and we can justify it.
So if somebody knows that God loves them, what's the next step?
When I started my blog 5 or 6 years ago, I really wanted to share the message that I was learning to live loved. That I had experienced this transformation of just knowing about God and actually having a pretty decent relationship with God to really having experienced the unconditional love of God and that that transformed how I looked at every relationship. And how I looked at the world and how I looked at other people.
And so the message of my blog was Learning to Live Loved. Let's lived love together. So what does it mean to live loved? It means to not feel like you're having to always earn love from other people because you've got the love of God. It means not feeling like there's a limited amount of love to go around because God's love is abundant and not scarce. It means that you have freedom to love others because God's love is so abundant in you that you can't help but share it. For me, once I really experienced that unconditional love of God. I think that it transformed how I looked at myself in the world.
So Beth, you talked a lot about the biblical stuff today and that was reminding me the Bible's tough to just pick up and read. It's in every hotel room. But it's a tough book to pick up and understand which is why I want to plug something because you have made the Bible actually manageable and meaningful.
That's right. The M&Ms.
That's my thing.
So Beth actually has this really cool program.
Yeah, it's like a workshop.
Yeah like a workshop.
I actually have it set up now that you could do it as a five week small group study and I call it Bible 100 and the idea is that you can learn about the whole Bible, Genesis to Revelation, in 100 minutes or less. But it never takes her less as always. It always takes me 100 minutes. I actually have the whole 100 minute video on YouTube. We can put a link to that and you can watch the whole thing.
You could do it as a workshop with some other people or if you wanted to break it into different chunks and have more hands on activities because the 100 minutes is really just a lecture. But if you wanted to break it down and do more activities, I have the 5 week study that small groups have been doing and really, really feeling like it's helping them understand the big picture of the Bible better.
Sweet. So we will put a link to that in the show notes and if people want to keep up with you on social media, where is your biggest platform? Where are you on the most?
I'm on Twitter like 65 times a day.
What's your handle?
Nice. And I am on Instagram probably the most. So if you want to keep up with the things that I'm up to, my handle is @SMKAuthor, that's it.
@SMKAuthor. Also, if you want to visit my website I set up another website address cause my website is actually StephanieKostopoulos.com. But Beth that that was too hard for people spell. So you can go to SMKAuthor.com and it'll take you to my website.
True story. I recently was working on a graphic, I needed to be reminded of how to spell Kostopoulos and I went to SMKAuthor.com and poof!
Yay, I could get once again, see Kostopoulos written out and I could spell it correctly.
Well, We have a question for you. So every podcast we like to ask you a question that you can call in to our voicemail number to answer. And today's question is a question... what we want to know is: Do you have any questions for us?
Please don't ask me questions about the Trinity Y'all.
Please do. Please do. I'd love it.
As someone who is serving as a pastor and who is in seminary, I feel like I'm deeply immersed in how difficult it is to talk about things.
Now that you've talked about that I can't cut that section out of this episode. So I hope you enjoyed it cause I couldn't cut it out. So if you have any questions for us, please go into our voicemail number and the number is (850) 270-3308.
At the end of each episode we like to end with Questions for Reflection. These are questions we written about today's show and Beth is going to read them leaving a little space between for you to pause and you can answer them out loud to yourself or you can go to our website, Dospod.us and you will find a downloadable PDF.
Number one, how do you know if Jesus loves you? Number two, does it matter to you if Jesus loves you? Number three, what does it feel like to be loved unconditionally? Number four, is there anyone in your life you love unconditionally? And number five, do you feel there is societal pressure to believe that Jesus loves you?
This has been the Discovering Our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.