So in the message yesterday, our pastor mentioned a quote by Brennan Manning. And over the last 24 hours, as I have been praying and spending time with God and reading the Word, it’s actually some teaching by Brennan Manning that has been gently pushing its way back into my mind and my heart.
The meditation of grace.
The world-altering-reality-shifting mediation upon the grace of God.
Because, I revisit this stuff, and dwell upon the Word, and sing about the Truth, but yet, I still find one of the biggest wars I fight internally is remembering it. Really remembering it. Living-like-I-know-its-true remembering it.
Grace is often so easy a word to flow from our lips, but so difficult a Truth to walk in. Believing, fully believing, that we are wholly and completely loved by God, even in our weakness. Knowing, in full knowledge, that it is because we are those who are ‘sick’ that Jesus came for us. Trusting that it is precisely because we do not have it all together, and because our stories aren’t perfect, that we truly recognise our desperate need for a Saviour. Walking in the reality that He calls us to live in the freedom of greater holiness in response to His grace, rather than through our own zealous ability to keep a list of laws.
My Old Testament lecturer sometimes jokes that we can fall into having a perception of God that paints Him as an angry distant Father waiting to smite us out of existence with a lightening bolt, until our big brother Jesus stands in the gap. Which quite frankly, is a completely wrong perception of the rescue-plan-of-redemption that was birthed in love and executed in grace, which broke the heart of a perfect Abba Father and a beautifully-radiant-Son, who in unity, did everything to be close to us.
But a mediation upon God’s grace… That changes things.
It starts to wreck our preconceptions.
It actually ruins me in the best possible way. Because I’m never going to exhaust this revelation, no matter how many times or how deeply I dive into its depths. And for the eternities to come, I will be praising Him in awe-struck wonder as wave after wave of His Rivers never cease to bring me to my knees.
We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground. (Brennan Manning)
Now, if you carry a burden for the broken, I really recommend reading some Brennan Manning. In fact, if you don’t really carry a burden for the broken, I probably advise it all the more. Because I firmly believe that our life’s purpose is to discover what it is to live fulfilling the first commandment of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, which can’t do anything but lead to the second of loving our neighbour as ourselves.
And I read widely because I approach the Word humbly and I want to be constantly growing and changing and deepening in my understanding, and enlarging my heart for God and for people. But man, when Brennan Manning writes about grace, it really starts to mess with your heart in the best possible way.
Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps. (Brennan Manning)
I’ve carried a deep burden for the broken and the lost for about as long as I can remember. My first memories of childhood are being found by Jesus, and Him grabbing a hold of me in a way that captivated me away from anything else. But my second memories of childhood are talking about that reality to anyone and everyone who would listen. Praying for them. Sharing with them. Loving them. Begging my friends to come to church. Preaching in the playground. Leading prayer meetings in my lunch hour. Carrying my guitar around just in case the chance to sing about Jesus came up. Praying that God would help me learn where the outcast wept.
But, you know, I’m now 28, and these last few years I’ve been learning the lessons of brokenness in a whole new way. I guess in some senses I can see that God has been answering the prayers of my childhood. Letting me share a little in His suffering so that He can bring me through and teach me about His perfect healing in a whole new way. I’ve learned where the outcast weeps. By being the outcast.
I remember vividly, a conversation with one of my dear friends/mentors about a year ago. This person has known me since I was 17 years old, and walked the past decade or so as a big part of my life. And they were reflecting on some of my recent testimony, and what they term the ‘fruit of brokenness’… (I’m not going to blog my testimony again today, but if you are interested then search for ‘The Word is Hope’ on the sidebar, or email me, or whatever… :))
But my wise friend simply said to me: ‘The thing is Peta. You were always called to walk with the broken’.
Wow. I mean that’s a statement to knock you right out of your pity party.
And boy, has it been true. Because this last year, it is my weakness that God has used. And my vulnerabilities that He has shown Himself strong in. And my rejections that have enabled me to embrace others more fully.
Because then He gets all the glory.
One of the inspirational pastors I stayed with this summer in Japan asked me after a Sunday service, when in my life I had begun to worship in the freedom and joy that he saw in me (I think I’d been in a dancing-place at the back of the church)… And all I could say in reply was, ‘Well, I’ve always loved worship. But these last couple of years every time I sing praise it is more real. Because I know what it’s like to be rescued by God. Completely rescued. And how can you not worship with full abandon when you’re so incredibly thankful?’ Later on that week, a beautiful 12 girl old girl lent over to me in the worship time and said, ‘When I grow up I want to worship just like you do’.
Because when I understand that God delights in me because of His grace, and not because I feel or am good enough of my own accord, it changes everything. It messes with all that I want to feel guilt or shame about. It enables me to run to Him in my failure but then get up, move forward, and keep running stronger and stronger for Him. It means I believe that what the Bible says about repentance and forgiveness is true. It takes away condemnation. It means that I don’t hold onto unforgiveness or see myself as better than someone else. It shows that a sinner can become a worshipper. It means that I know He calls the redeemed sinner to be a worshipper. It means I can speak with real hope about futures redeemed and restored from the consequences of sin. Its result is that I can embrace the broken, knowing that I am only made whole in He who is the mighty Healer. It means that I can weep with the abused, and pray for the sick, and be moved for the abandoned. It means that I get over wanting to hang out where it’s sterile and clean, pretending that I’m naturally righteous, and instead find the place of the outcast, where Jesus sits among the desperate sinners in need of a Saviour, arms open to welcome us and to wash our sins away.
Because He has done everything to be close to us.
Let me finish with this beautiful challenge.
Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm trees in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.
‘But how?’ we ask.
Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’
There they are. There we are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace. (Brennan Manning)
Oh, and this morning some of the wonderful young people at my project made us all Christmas parcels. I think they need some more grace… 😉