I have been looking for excuses to re-re-read "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning, so I just decided to do it. I recommend Brennan Manning's books to people all the time, and something about his writings draws me in, no matter how many times I've read them. After my most recent recommendation (yesterday), I got a craving to read TRG again. So I've just devoured the 1st chapter (again), and, as I always am after reading it, I am completely in awe of God's grace...and of the fact that I truly know so little about it.
From only the little of it I've allowed myself to experience, I know that the grace of God is a mystery, both to believers AND to unbelievers. The modern church has no idea what GRACE really is, though we claim to. Grace isn't for the "proper and pious" because they don't really think they need it anyway--they think grace is for other people because accepting it implies need, and God forbid we show any form of need. Grace is for the people who have been beaten down by life; the people who have made bad choices and know it; the people who have come to the end of themselves. Since we all, at one time or another, have experienced these emotions, grace is for us.
As Christians, we often turn away the very types of people with whom Jesus chose to spend his time. Jesus had a thing for "damaged goods" and he still does. I am the first to say that I would classify myself in the "damaged goods" category. I'm full of darkness. I'm prone to bitterness. I'm selfish and I fall prey to the sin of comparison on many occasions. But Grace calls out to me, most of all in those moments of need.
The Scriptures say that we should humble ourselves before God and he will lift us up. What does it mean, realistically, for me to humble myself? Does it mean that I should starve myself and pray, prostrate myself on the ground and beg God to remove the darkness in me? I think that begging God for anything implies that he's unwilling to give it. He said, "Ask and you will receive." When God extended grace, it was an open invitation. He invites me to stand and look him in the eye. He invites me to feel the warmth of his embrace, even though I'm undeserving. He already knows how dark I am. He already knows the motives of my heart. He already knows that I'm not perfect...and he loves me just that way. I don't have to beg him to forgive me and to show grace to me. He always has shown grace and he always will.
Grace has nothing to do with the way I want my life to appear on the outside. What grace does is cut to the raw, bloody core in the deepest part of my soul, the part of me that struggles with self-loathing and insecurity and bitterness, and it whispers, "You are loved. You are accepted. You don't need to earn it. I love you just as you are." That's the healing balm of grace. It's unmerited favor. I don't deserve it and I never will, but he freely gives it anyway.
So despite the fact that I tend to resemble a Botticelli more than I resemble a Barbie, God loves me anyway. Even when I tend to act out in anger, he responds in love. His grace is sufficient for me. It's unmerited and neverending. Grace shows me that I truly have nothing to fear. God is for me, who can be against me?
I'll keep reading and I'm sure (as it always does) this book will continue to inspire me and stir my heart. I hope you don't mind if I write as I think...it may be disjointed, but it's my way of processing the stirring of the Spirit inside of me.