Have you read Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel? I'm on my third time right now! I read it once in high school, once in college, and yesterday I felt like the Lord told me to read it again. It's all about grace and how we're all just beat up bedraggled ragamuffins who desperately need it. It's about accepting our neediness and celebrating how gracious and loving our God truly is. It's a must read for Christians, I think.
The truth is I've been stuck in this pattern of guilt and shame for a while now. Parenting children from hard places, children from traumatic pasts is by far the hardest thing I've ever done and at times it has brought out the worst in me. I think it was Jen Hatmaker who basically said that while parenting is like holding up a magnifying mirror to your worst self, adoptive parenting is like that times ten. There's a section in Wounded Children Healing Homes that talks about shame and guilt surrounding adoptive parents who have been through extremely difficult times with children from traumatic pasts. "They intended to adopt a hurt child and nurture him into a whole person. Instead, they are less parents than jailers, less nurturing than controlling, less accepting than rejecting, less loving than hating. What kind of monsters, they wonder, could feel such anger toward a child?...Adoptive parents cannot be expected to be superhuman, but they may feel guilty for things said or done in anger during explosive moments with an angry child. After all, the typical reaction to anger is more anger, and breaking this cycle can be exceedingly difficult." Adoptive parents, have you been there?
And we've come so far since those extremely difficult times. But sometimes my failings as a mom still bother me. As I was struggling through guilt once again this weekend, God whispered to me to re-read The Ragamuffin Gospel. I felt like He was telling me that I don't have to justify my sin, I don't have to compare myself to others, I don't have to try to make myself feel okay about my failings. I can own those failings and know that I am forgiven and washed clean. It's the fundamental principle of our faith and yet when we sin after spending our entire lives as Christians, we sometimes convince ourselves that it doesn't apply to us anymore. After all, we should have it more together by now. We should be further along in the sanctification process. We should be practically perfect by now, shouldn't we?
But the point of Christianity is grace. Grace when I realize once again that I still have a sinful nature at war within myself. Grace even though I've been following Christ for 25 years and figured I'd have it more together by now. Grace for us "who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life's tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith." (Brennan Manning)
So during this season of life, I need a reminder that "our trashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace." (Brennan Manning)
This is so good. It is such good news! Like I said, it's the foundation of our faith and yet somewhere along the way it sort of dulls into the background of the Christian life.
"The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me...I don't need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness." (Brennan Manning)
I love it! I need it!
Manning quotes Julian of Norwich who said, "The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love."
The enemy loves to pick at my guilt and my shame. He loves to bring it up again and again and again. Will you join me in refusing to let him? Let's throw off that guilt and live gladly because of the knowledge of God's love and grace!