I’m reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. There’s a section in here that says so clearly what I used to try to convey so unsuccessfully. I used to frequent what others considered to be the dark corridors of human society; I was part of a community that other Christians I knew wouldn’t go anywhere near. I was really part of that community. I wasn’t there to just share the gospel and then leave. I wasn’t an outsider in their midst. They were my friends, and I was part of their lives as they were part of mine. In the end, I didn’t leave because I fulfilled my mission among them–I never intended to leave at all. I left because my presence there was creating such a severe rift between myself and those who insisted I was wrong to be there that I found myself having to choose between them and my own family.
I find this passage from Brennan Manning to communicate so clearly what I failed to convey to other Christians at that time, that I can’t help but share it here, in this place where I occasionally step out of my shell and reveal a bit of what lies beneath the surface of me.
Because the shining sun and the falling rain are given both to those who love God and to those who reject God, the compassion of the Son embraces those who are still living in sin. The Pharisee lurking within all of us shuns sinners. Jesus turns toward them with gracious kindness. He sustains His attention throughout their lives for the sake of their conversion “which is possible to the very last moment.”
God never leaves us, never forsakes us, never gives up hope that we will turn to him and place our trust in his heavenly care. Even when we’re sinning, even when we’re rejecting him, even when we want nothing to do with him, he eagerly awaits our attention like a mother whose baby is just beginning to walk away from her for the first time. Why shouldn’t we, as the baby’s brothers and sisters, dwell with our mother and our sibling in this place? Who knows, maybe if the baby falls, we will be there to pick him or her up and redirect them to the care that awaits them, because of the trust we have earned as people of love and safety. Wouldn’t a parent’s heart rejoice at such love between siblings? Aren’t we all created in God’s image, all descended from the same breath of God as one another, part of the same creation he so lovingly cares for, and doesn’t he ask us to care for it with him?
The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to my husband recently about my journey as of today. At a glance, it seems so basic, and unlike what a woman who has been walking with God for decades would write. Then again, coming to accept and intend to live the teachings of Jesus takes a lifetime.
Three years ago, I did more than deconstruct my beliefs. My entire self shut down, and I began a major reconstruction process. It has been a very, very slow process, and I have only recently begun to see progress toward any hope of future vibrancy in Christ and his kingdom.
Our Father has been showing me a foundational portion of what it means to live with him. It means dying to self, which does not involve self-destruction (the means by which I have generally died to myself over the past two decades), but rather a denial of myself as being on the throne of my own life—a denial of my perceived need to be right, in control, or even accepted or accommodated by others. Giving up the perceived primal needs of my self, I naturally endure some level of suffering, which God then enters and dwells in with me. This is one way in which I take up the cross of Christ and follow him. I’m coming to understand that God doesn’t so much have a path for me to walk, as a design and mission for who I am to be, and how that being will manifest in my life.
In the past two weeks, God has been saturating me with this message of self-denial versus self-destruction.
I’ve realized that I am not nearly the woman I would like to be known as. I saw at Bob Lexin’s funeral the same legacy I wish to leave when I go to sleep to await the renewal of all things. I want to be known as a woman after God’s own heart, who sits at the feet of Jesus, delves deeply into the things of him, listens well to others, and graces the people around me with compassion, mercy and understanding. I want to be known as bold enough to follow Jesus even when nobody else is willing to do it, without reacting in the flesh to the suffering that naturally follows living the life Jesus calls us to live. I want to be known as generous and kind, not this angry, pent up, unresolved person I am in major portions of my life today. The only way to do that is to bury myself deeper in the One who loves me best, and let him continue to heal me in his own ways and timing….
All in all, I am a broken woman, not only from the wounds I’ve suffered, but from the evil that has reigned in me at different levels through different times in my life. I am learning to suffer with my Lord, and to let him be my God, my king, my lead. I have a long way to go before reclaiming the vibrancy that he has placed in me. But I have a certain peace, finally, in the journey, while at the same time having a certain discontent with the place I’m at (the discontent being a good thing, a driving force to continue in the path of Jesus toward our Abba).