When I was hobbled, trying to figure out how to eke from life what I needed, I searched for things and people to fill me, to complete me. Anne Lamott1 expresses the longing beautifully:
There was usually an initial flurry of hope and sex, maybe even of rich love, but ultimately we discovered that it …didn’t agree all the time with our well-thought-out opinions. Completion? That would turn out to be an illusion. Sometimes a mate was snuggly and fun and even thrilling, but then sometimes this person lied, or cheated, and delivered a lot of pain. It was hard work, the hardest work. It would leave a person empty.
For years, I searched for wholeness, fullness, peace of mind and heart. I was convinced I could find it in acquiring things, and allowing men to use me in ways I thought would lead to love. Yet the love I sought was always conditional, always transactional, and in the end left me void of love.
Like the apostle Paul, I can say I was the worst of sinners. And the monumental, life-changing difference between the love I sought and the love I received through Christ is difficult to express in words. His unrestrained, unconditional, and unfathomable love released the hobbling ropes which held me in a revolving pattern of self-destructive behavior.
The extravagant, irrational and indulgent grace lavished upon me from my Father through Jesus lifted my sights from a human and cultural point of view to a godly and kingdom point of view. I can no longer see people through my own eyes, whether they are friends or enemies. I can only see them through the eyes of God, for they are all His unique creations, born of His love and grace.
“God not only allows us to make mistakes, but even uses our mistakes in our favor! That is the brilliant Gospel economy of grace, and it is the only thing worthy of being called ‘good news and a joy for all the people’ (Luke 2:10). When you come out of the boxing ring of the creative tension of law and grace, you will know that you have finally won the match; but ironically, you will have won by losing!” Richard Rohr2
Today, while I have a thorn in my side (also like Paul), I also possess a peace and freedom beyond comprehension. I am convinced this peace and freedom is due to the daily healing and transformation of my heart and mind which comes from the Spirit residing now in me. (John 14:26) This transformation leads me to contemplative thinking, the gray areas of reflection deep under the surface of dualistic, black-and-white judgment.
My relationship with Jesus has helped me to be kind to myself, to grant myself forgiveness because He does so first, never brings them to mind again. (Isaiah 43:25) His Spirit is the One who casts out shame and guilt, the One who helps me realize what it means to say God is Love. The Spirit is the One who allows me to understand the meaning of, “Such Love has no fear, because Perfect Love drives out all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows we have not fully experienced His Perfect Love.” (1 John 4:18)
When I turn inward and listen for His voice instead of outward (listening to my own voice), I begin to discern the difference between my petty desire for condemnation and punishment and God’s desire for mercy, grace and restoration. I only fool myself if I suggest my words of accusation come from love.
My voice is the hobbled one that cannot fully absorb or extend the fullest grace of the Gospel. God’s voice, through the Spirit, always extends grace, offers mercy, and speaks out of unconditional love.
Up to now, Christianity has largely mirrored culture instead of transforming it. Reward/ punishment, good guys versus bad guys is the only way that a dualistic mind, unrenewed by prayer and grace, can perceive reality. As long as we remain inside of a dualistic, win/lose script, Christianity will continue to appeal to low-level and vindictive moralisms and will not rise to the mystical banquet that Jesus offered us. (John 2:6-10) We will focus on maintaining order by sanctified violence instead of moving toward a higher order of love and healing—which is the very purpose of the Gospel. Richard Rohr2
1©Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway-Rediscovering Mercy, Riverhead Books, NY, NY
2©Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, Center for Action and Contemplation, https://cac.org/