Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Second Call {Brennan Manning}

The last several years have been ones of questioning and learning. I was beginning to feel like a broken record . . . "the world I came from, in the past I never heard, etc."

I could identify with many, if not all, of the things that characterize the fundy subculture:
altar calls
constant guilt
worrying about "being saved" (had I said the right words in the right order? what if I didn't really really mean it?)
trying to do the things that would make my parents and God love me
fear of not being good enough for God
ostracizing those not good enough for love
mindless acceptance of traditions of men

Eventually, we stepped away from church for a little while. And as we found our way back, we found the God who is real and loving. Not the tiny, powerless god I was raised with who needed my constant vigilance on what I was projecting as my "testimony" to have any effect in the world.

It's been a journey but I still had a nagging feeling that it was ridiculous or I should get over it or I was being overly dramatic or critical. That I should just move on. Yes, I was raised in a rules-oriented, repressive environment and the culture of my high school and college was a petri dish of self-righteousness and works and not being good enough. But enough already, right?

Recently, I've been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. I've had it here for awhile. I've been working through it slowly, partly because of my attention span and partly because it is a lot for me to digest in big chunks. But more than anything, it's been healing. I keep looking back at the publishing date: 1990. That's not fair, I think. This has been around for 24 years and I'm just reading it? And this idea of grace - it's even older than that. and no one. NO. ONE. in the first 30 years of my life told me about it. What it really is.

Chapter 9 is "The Second Call" and I thank God for giving me these words at this time. Because maybe 25 years ago I wouldn't have gotten it. Maybe I wasn't ready for it until now.

Manning's words:

For the Christian, this second journey usually occurs between the ages of thirty and sixty an is often accompanied by a second call form the Lord Jesus. The second call invites us to a serious reflection on the nature and quality of our faith in the gospel of grace, our hope in the new and not yet, and our love for God and people. The second call is a summons to a deeper, more mature commitment of faith where the naivete, first fervor, and untested idealism of the morning and the first commitment have been seasoned with pain, rejection, failure, loneliness, and self-knowledge.
Oh . . . wait . . . this is normal? I'm not the only person to feel this way and struggle with the "morning schedule" not working for the "afternoon"?  
The call asks, do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe that this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. 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.
It's all really good. The whole chapter. The entire book. You should read it.
What is the story of my priesthood? It is the story of an unfaithful person through whom God continues to work.
. . . .
And the Lord is now calling me a second time, affirming me, enabling me, encouraging me, challenging me all the was into fullness of faith, hope, and love in the power of His Holy Spirit. Ignorant, weak, sinful person that I am, with easy rationalizations for my sinful behavior, I am being told anew in the unmistakable language of love, "I am with you, I am for you, I am in you. I expect more failure from you than you expect form yourself."
This, to me, is so freeing. I can't stop failing and sinning because I'm human. I don't have to feel shame and guilt and "try harder." God knows I'm human and loves me anyway. Anything I do, anything I have, is from God and His great love.

So this journey. This processing of what was and marvelling at the light and freedom on this new path . . . it's part of my life. I won't feel bad about it but allow God to work through it. 

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