Rattling around dark corners of the human heart, there is an instinct, an insistence that Something is out there. We live in an age where more people loudly (very loudly) declare their refusal to believe that there is anything like a God out there. Flying Spaghetti Monsters anyone? Not only is this happening more publicly than ever before, but it is more culturally acceptable, so that kids are growing up with this as a normal human belief and not just coming to it later in life.

Frankly, I don’t believe the numbers. Or many of the claims.

Oh I think many atheists really are saying what they think. I think plenty of atheists have thought through their beliefs and are committed to the proposition (non-propisition?) that they put on their bumper stickers. But I’ve had too many conversations with atheists that, when pressed, quickly hedge to a place of agnosticism.

“Well… I don’t know… but I don’t think we can ever know.”

The tinge of doubt about their doubt creeps in very quietly and very quickly.

That’s the instinct. That feeling. That agnosticism. It’s a sign of common understanding that we all share. Something in us says that… Something. Something may be out there. Maybe even Someone. From the most religious of us to the most secular, the normal human experience is a sense of haunting. We’re haunted by the premonition that Someone may be out there. But that’s not even the most frightening question.

The most frightening question is… is It good? Is It good towards me?

Of course, I don’t believe in an It. I don’t believe in a generic Something or even Someone. I believe Jesus is God’s way of leaning very close and answering, “Yes. I’m here.”

And one of the most difficult things to accept about the God that Jesus represents is not that He is so holy or that He judges. Instinctively, I think, we believe God is like that. We know ourselves. We know the darkness in the crevices of our being. We know the selfishness that often creeps into our seemingly most selfless acts. We know that if anyone watched our thoughts play out on a movie screen that we very likely would be left alone, wallowing in rejection and disgust. We have very little trouble believing that God would hate us for that stuff.

So we cross our arms and say, “Well I’m no worse than anyone else out there. So God just must accept all of us.” You’re right. You aren’t worse than anyone else. And, if pushed, you can produce quite the list of people who are way worse than yourself. Your Hitlers and your Bundys and your Stalins. And, now that you mention it, that guy down the street is quite the ass, too. “So,” chin out in defiance, “this is who I am. If God’s out there, he’ll have to take me.”

All the while, you wonder if he will. You’re unsettled by the you that you know. Maybe you shove this instinct down or talk yourself out of it as a social construct. But so many of us wonder… can I be loved?

The most difficult thing to accept about Jesus is the truth that he sees all the stuff that you hate about yourself and he sees even more. He sees you naked and unadorned. He sees all the smut that you can muster and he is good towards you.

Jesus tells these stories about the place where he is king. He tells them over and over again so that you and I will get the message. God is like a Father just hungry to have his son come home, even when the son has already him that he wishes his dad was dead. God is like a shepherd who would leave behind the flock to find the foolish lamb that ran away. God is like the old woman who has lost something precious and is desperate to find it again. God is like the host of a party that is pulling people out of the alleys to attend, giving them robes in exchange for their filth.

He does these things again and again so you’ll see the message. Jesus hangs out with foreigner that his people despise. Jesus does not know a time when it’s wrong to heal the crippled. Jesus touches the leper before he heals him. Jesus keeps the party going for people who may have already had a little bit too much to drink. Jesus lets the outcast sinner woman bathe his feet in tears and perfume not because his feet so badly need to receive it, but because she so desperately needs to do it.

Jesus is alarmingly and unrelentingly good.

But those questions, those doubts, the quiet whispers in your mind, the “can it possibly be true? Can Someone be this good?” Those never go away. They are evidence that things have gone awry somewhere in the marrow of humanity and these whispers bob to the surface like rotting fish on the surface of the sea.

And every time, Jesus is there, answering the question again and again.

“I am here. And I am good.”

“I am here. And I am good.”

“I am here. And I am good.”

In those stories that Jesus tells about the parties, there are only certain kinds of people that don’t end up inside at the feast. They’re not the worst ones in the stories. They’re not the grimiest or the grossest. The only people that ever end up banished from the party are the ones that banish themselves.

“I have other things I need to do.”

“I am busy right now. Maybe later?”

“I have things I need to take care of.”

All of them variations of the same theme.

“Can the party be that great? Can the host that good? I can find better. I will do better.”

You’ll never find better. You’ll never do better. You’ll never be more ready than now. You’ll never be more presentable than whatever now you find yourself in. You’ll never be better off with the doubts that rot you from the inside out.

The host of the party is very clear:

“I am here. And I am good.”

“I am here. And I am good.”

“I do not care how much darkness you clothe yourself in. You have not hidden those things from me. You cannot dissuade me.”

“I am here.”

“I am that good.”

“Come in to my feast.”