Last night, Charlotte and I went to "Taco Tuesday" at Rosa’s. Mexican food on a cold night. Very nice. Afterward, we went to the Starbucks Christmas party. Each year, Starbucks has a Christmas party. No advertising other than invitations to all who have been by during the previous two weeks or so. For two hours there is music, complimentary samples of various cakes, etc. and complimentary coffees of all kinds. So we spent some time there, visiting with some we know who came for the same reason.
I was thinking about last evening when I picked up Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. I began to look at some of the portions of the book I had highlighted:
At Sunday worship, as in every dimension of our existence, many of us pretend to believe we are sinners. Consequently, all we can do is pretend to believe we have been forgiven. As a result, our whole spiritual life is pseudo-repentance and pseudo-bliss. (p. 136)
Some years ago, when we were living in Alabama, our church had a number of recovering alcoholics/drug addicts. I remember visiting an AA meeting with a friend, a recovering alcoholic, one cold winter evening. I had never been to an AA meeting before and was a little nervous. A large group had gathered. This was a special occasion. They were having a party — a birthday party for someone who had been sober for two years. We gathered in one large circle and began to introduce ourselves, "Hi, my name is Jack; I am an alcoholic."
Brennan Manning writes about his first AA meeting:
I experienced a significant breakthrough into the freedom of the children of God at my first AA meeting. In the past I would have set great store not only on looking good but on thinking too often about who is looking. My self-image as a man of God and a disciplined disciple had to be protected at all costs. My ravenous insecurities made my sense of self-worth rise and fall like a sailboat on the winds of another’s approval or disapproval. It was a supreme moment of liberation to stand up, kick the pedestal aside and simply state: "My name is Brennan; I am an alcoholic."
My spiritual director once told me, "Brennan, give up trying to look and sound like a saint. It will be a lot easier on everybody." (pp. 153-154)
Do you connect with this at all? I do. For too long I lived in bondage to peer pressure (whining about the church and its expectations) and people pleasing (defining love as making people happy with me) as well as to the craving for human respect (What if I do my very best and I still don’t matter to that person?). This kind of thinking avoids two critical realities:
My genuine sinfulness.
My desperate need to receive God’s love and to find my identity and my sense of self-worth in that love.
Without those two realities, I will simply be (as Manning suggests somewhere in his book) like a travel agent who is handing out travel brochures to faraway places. Places that I can talk about but have never visited.
Do you relate to this? Does this sound familiar?