"If Jesus appeared at your dining room table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not, total comprehension of your life story and every skeleton hidden in your closet; If He laid out the real state of your present discipleship with the hidden agendas, the mixed motives and the dark desires buried in your psyche, would you feel his acceptance and forgiveness?". Could you imagine... Jesus sitting there at the head of the table... looking straight at you. Would you feel his love? Would you sense His acceptance? Or would you cower in fear?
As Brennan Manning says in his decades old book The Ragamuffin Gospel, "sooner or later we are all confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficiency. Our security is shattered and our bootstraps are cut. Once the fervor has passed, weakness and infidelity appear. (And) we discover our inability to add even a single inch to our spiritual stature". And it's in those moments...when we seemingly hit our spiritual rock bottom... that we hopefully encounter God and in turn can say along with Manning, "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".
Maybe it's just my misinterpretation of the world, but it seems to me in our day and age there is this sense that if I believe God exists, I'm good. There is nothing more to it. There's no life change... no moment of realization of the amazing grace of God. We just have this head knowledge of some big guy in the sky whose watching over us, but it has no real meaning for our day to day lives... there's no hope, no freedom, no gratitude or sense of rejoicing. Manning explains how "in earlier times it did not take faith to believe that God existed... almost everybody took that for granted. Rather, faith had to do with one's relationship to God... whether one trusted in God. The difference between faith as belief in something that may or may not exist and faith as trusting in God is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart. The first can leave us unchanged, the second intrinsically brings change".
I think it's that moment "When we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God's mercy, (that) God can make something beautiful out of us". That's when God moves from something out there, to the center of our lives. We so badly...or maybe I should just speak for myself and admit that I so badly... want to feel like I am in control and like I can do good and make myself acceptable to God. I try to cover up and hide my faults and wrong doings and perform for God. But even the Bible says that "We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in God's sight" (Isaiah 64:6).
It's the moment though when you recognize the truth of that verse, but then allow "the focus of your life (to) shift from your badness to His goodness and the question to become not what have I done, but what can He do, (that) release from remorse can happen; (and) miracle of miracles, you can forgive yourself because you are forgiven, accept yourself because you are accepted and begin to start building up the very places you once tore down". It's the moment when true faith comes into being. As Manning says, "Christianity happens when men and women accept with unwavering trust that their sins have not only been forgiven, but forgotten".
I am not making much sense am I? And I am in no way doing this book justice. Brennan talks so honestly and eloquently in his book about grace and what God truly accomplished on the cross, and none of this even begins to touch the surface on that.
For me, I needed to read this book again to be reminded of hard truths like "if in our hearts we really don't believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the cross". But also I needed to hear comforting knowledge that "it is this risk ....to bring the truth of ourselves just as we are, to God just as He is, ... is the most dignified thing we can do in life" and that "we may not be the kind of people we want to be, we may be a long way from our goals, we may have more failures than achievements, we may not be wealthy or powerful or spiritual, we may not even be happy, but we are nonetheless accepted by God (and) held in His Hands". And maybe you need to hear that too.
Maybe you, like me need to read and re-read this book until it makes sense an engrains itself into your heart. Because ultimately the Ragamuffin Gospel is the Gospel of God... the story of His grace... and that's the only thing we can truly place our hope in! So, don't let my rambling and lack on congruency distract you. Take the time, read Brennan's words for yourself and allow God to speak to you through them!