“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God.
While there is much we may have earned–our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift, “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.”
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”
Brennan Manning, Quoted from The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
“Imagine that Jesus is calling you today. He extends a second invitation–to accept His Father’s love. And maybe you answer, “Oh, I know that. It’s old hat. I’ve come to this book seeking an insight in a fit of fervor. I’m wide open. I’ll listen to anything you have to say, so go ahead, dazzle me. Lay a new word on me. I know the old one.”
And God answers, “That’s what you don’t know. You don’t know how much I love you. The moment you think you understand is the moment you do not understand. I am God, not man. You tell others about Me–that I am a loving God. Your words are glib. My words are written in the blood of My only Son. The next time you preach about My love with such obnoxious familiarity, I may come and blow your whole prayer meeting apart. When you come at Me with studied professionalism, I will expose you as a rank amateur. When you try to convince others that you understand what you are talking about, I will tell you to shut up and fall flat on your face. You claim you know I love you.
Did you know that every time you tell Me you love me, I say thank you?
When your son comes to you asking, “Do you like Susan more ’cause she skates better and she’s a girl?” are you grieved and saddened over your child’s lack of trust? Do you know that you do the same thing to Me?
Do you claim to know what we shared when Jesus withdrew to a deserted place or spent the night on a hillside alone with Me? Do you know from where the inspiration to wash the feet of the Twelve came? Do you understand that, motivated by love alone, your God became your slave in the Upper Room?
Were you grieved by the divine command to Abraham that he slay his only begotten Isaac on Mount Moriah? Were you relieved when the angel intervened, Abraham’s hand was stayed, and the sacrifice was not carried out? Have you forgotten that on Good Friday no angel intervened? That sacrifice was carried out, and it was My heart that was broken.
Are you aware that I had to raise Jesus from the dead on Easter morning because my love is everlasting? Are you serenely confident that I will raise you, too, My adopted child?
Faith means you want God and want to want nothing else…”
-Brennan Manning from The Ragamuffin Gospel