If you go back through my notes, then you’ll find the place where grace is heard and it starts with Henri Nouwen. Nouwen was and still is CPR to a soul crushed by a religion that as Jesus said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me; 7And they worship me vainly, teaching doctrines that are the dictates of men.’ 8Forsaking the command of God, you uphold the tradition of men.” 9And he said to them, “You are quite adept at setting aside God’s command so that you may keep your own tradition.”
But grace didn’t stop with Henri Nouwen, it led me to a lot of other people, including Brennan Manning. Looking back, I think it was Henri Nouwen that led me directly to Brennan Manning. Although, I am not quite sure but according to my notes, which provide somewhat of a virtual timeline for me, it was Nouwen that brought me to Manning. If I am trying to pinpoint the one person who God moved powerfully through to speak truth to my heart and wrap me in love, then it is Brennan Manning. You don’t have to be a theologian to read him nor does his books require anything other than a ragamuffin desperately looking for the Bread of Life. (Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel is my all time favorite message.)
Yesterday, I picked up Brennan’s book “Ruthless Trust” to reread some 7 years later. In 2013, I had led a book study on it….and then God took me through a real life course on Ruthless Trust and we entered the mystery, and the most undoing and painful seasons of my life. As hard as it was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, it was this season that God used to peel off the last layer of scales that wrapped around my spirit, heart, mind and body, and it was this season that set me free to experience rest.
As I was reading Ruthless Trust, I landed on this one quote by Henri Nouwen. I felt that sharp prick of the soul that always means ”Stop and look closer.” It was in this quote that God spoke even deeper to me than he did in 2012, when (as providence would have it) I recorded my first quote by Henri Nouwen which, of course, was the same quote but with two lines missing. The missing lines read, “At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, “I love you. I knot you together in your mother’s womb”. ( Ps 139:13) Stop wandering around. Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need.”
Strangely enough, that is exactly what has happened to me. Eight years from recording that quote with the missing lines and through years that can only be described as a miracle, God has brought me back to the place where it all began for me. The place where I grew up and called home for 18 years. It is was here, as a child that I learned “Jesus loves me this I know” and it is here, and everyday that I have been back that he has reminded me who he is, who I am and that I can rest because I can trust our holy and healthy relationship.
It’s this place where my relationship with God began. Yet, it is clear that my home is not this place but my home is this relationship with God. It is this relationship with God that I have lived in and throughout many stages, phases, highs and lows, sunny and stormy days, weeks and years. There are no words that can ever describe the rest that I have in the love of God and the truth that flows through the people he brings into our relationship, who seem to appear at just the right time, to give me help, hope, nourishment, healing, guidance and their own experience, strength and hope. Just like today- I needed to hear Henri say:
“At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, “I love you. I knot you together in your mother’s womb”. ( Ps 139:13) Stop wandering around. Instead come home and trust God will bring you what you need. For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.”
My own personal timeline reveals the garbage that I was consuming from a real brood of vipers to the beginnings of hearing a song of grace and mercy emerge out of nowhere that flowed through men, who were naked and unashamed, and who were on their hands and knees busy helping to bandage wounds.
My timeline also reveals a long period that I allowed and participated in using words from whitewashed tombs to produce guilt, shame and fear…until I was drawn to the gentle voice of Jesus who says “28Come to me, all who toil and are burdened, and I shall give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon yourselves and learn from me, because I am gentle and accommodating in heart, and you will find rest for your souls; 30For my yoke is mild and my burden light.”
It was Henri Nouwen who crossed the road for me and he took me to his friend Brennan Manning, who nursed me to health with the encouragement he had been encouraged by.
I have shown below a snapshot of my notes. The first quote was the horrible CRAP that I was so used to hearing for years and then 6 months later, Henri Nouwen’s gentle voice is heard, followed by Brennan Manning, and the last quote is from Manning’s book, Ruthless Trust.
Today, more than ever, I believe we are being called to Trust. This is the work that “proves” faith. Trust requires risk. Brennan says, “The basic premise of biblical trust is the conviction that God wants us to grow, to unfold, and to experience fullness of life. However, this kind of trust is acquired only gradually and most often through a series of crisis in trials.”
Remember, our trust is not in money, the economy, the stock market, a president, a political party, our business plans, 401ks, technology and our our own “reasons.” Our trust is in God, who lives above space and time and in every single cell, microorganism, rain drop, wind, breath and in every act of love. It is this God who we trust and it is this God who walks with us through a real life journey of trust and readies us “When the appropriate time comes, only the disciple with an unflinching trust in God will dare to risk. And that trust is not naïve, it knows that the possibility of making a mistake and getting hurt is very real. But without exposure to potential failure, there is no risk.” BM
Remember doing what is right, good and true will always require risk and trust in The Way, The Truth and The Life of Love. Take the risk. Imitate Christ!