Possible

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.

Brennan writes,

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?

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The Risk-Takers

This will probably be my last post in the Much Like the Life Jesus Led series. I didn’t take it where I had intended, because my own life is frustrated right now in this very sense (and has been for a few years now). Brennan Manning writes in “A Glimpse of Jesus,”

The risk-taking disciple, who dares to listen to his feelings rather than to the pontifications of authority or the clamor of the majority, may quickly find that his inner convictions do not resonate with the vox populi. He finds the situation unnerving to himself and disturbing to the palace guard. Though Abraham Maslow might describe him as “unique and idiosyncratic, alive and creative rather than phony,” the nervous disciple finds little solace in the eulogy. He is pretty damned frightened about swimming upstream–his security blanket of respectability has been snatched away….

The risk-takers who listen to the Spirit speaking through “the intelligence of their emotions” are ready to chance something, fully aware that the history of Christian spirituality is not consistently one of obedient conformity, however much some savants choose to view it that way…. Their dream, insofar as it comes from the passionate uncertainty of the Spirit, is contagious for some and delusional for the vociferous, lockstepping majority. The Scriptures testify that the innovator invites trouble…. Heads shake, hallowed traditions are invoked, nonhistorical orthodoxy is extolled, and the guilt-tripping begins….

Soon the risk-takers find that they are traveling in bad company. The historical Jesus was no outlaw, and nothing in the gospel lends support to the notion that he was a maverick harboring a grudge against the world, the law, or the authorities. Still… Jesus listened to another voice, sought his spiritual direction elsewhere, and seemed unafraid of what people might say about him or what people might do to him.

For the last few years I’ve enjoyed relative safety in the tight cocoon of risk-less Christianity. The company I’ve kept has been nearly 100% Christian. The parties and other social events I’ve gone to have been nearly 100% Christian-sponsored and Christian-filled.

And it’s been bothering me.

I miss getting the same criticism as Jesus did for the company I keep. I miss sitting in my old friend Sanie’s living room and talking to a room full of gay teens and young adults about my experiences with the Spirit of God. I can still see their engaged faces, listening to me as I spoke from my heart about a God who does not hate them after all. The criticism I received from others in the church hurt, but Jesus didn’t tell us to take up our miniature golden crosses on fine chains around our necks and follow him. That’s not the cross, but merely a symbolic reminder of it. Yet, it’s far easier to heft only the imitation, which is so weightless and pain-free we put it on and largely forget we’re even wearing it.

In today’s reading of “Reflections for Ragamuffins,” Brennan Manning says, “Compassion, the ability to suffer with the hurt of another, is an essential Christian quality.” I miss taking time to sit with hurting people and listen to them, offering little to no advice other than specific ways I’ve found helpful for drawing near to Jesus.

I miss the words of a dear friend who was once something of a father figure to me, when he said,

You are a pioneer and a radical.

I’m not a pioneer or a radical anymore.

For years I struggled with conflicting desires to be a mother and to be something greater, more world-impacting. I couldn’t reconcile the two images of life I had in my head, the two dreams that competed for priority. Now that I’ve stepped out of danger for so long, and had time to evaluate my life past and present, and re-imagine my future, I’ve come to realize they aren’t conflicting dreams. I’m not just a parent who raises good people, to hopefully raise other good people, and so on. I’m a woman of God who is raising a new generation of Jesus-followers, and as such I’m not just here for them, but we’re here for us and others. They’re integrated ideas. Integrated dreams.

And it’s kinda perfect that I recently began listening to the Mosaic Podcast series by Erwin McManus and his co-pilot Hank Fortener. McManus just wrote a book called “The Artisan Soul,” which is all about being purposeful in what kind of life we’re living, because as created beings by a creative God, we’re not only artwork, but also artists ourselves.

I’ve had on my nightstand a quote I picked up in a book several months ago. I didn’t quote the author of the book, I simply typed this:

Be poets. Make something of these words I’ve spoken to you. Make a life, epic and poetic. And make it beautiful. Make it a work of art.
–Jesus

That’s what I want. I want to be the artisan of my life, together with the Artisan of my life. It’s a little oxymoronic, and I think I like it better because it is.

It’s funny, I had in mind a fairly organized, regularly-updated blog series about the life of Jesus and how to live much like he did. It surely didn’t turn out that way. Then again, I never have been able to successfully keep my resurrected savior all wrapped up neat and tidy within my limited capacity. For that I’m truly thankful.