Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Abba's Child (with the chapter of the same title)

This chapter at first seemed to be a bit jumpy, but after reading through a couple times (ya, I actually have time to really read this), I think there is a cohesiveness. The main thought I pulled out was that God is Compassion, and we learn this compassion from his human form in Jesus, who is "Abba's Child". Once we realize God's compassion for us, we can then begin to be compassionate to ourselves and to those around us, even our enemies.

The idea that we can call God "Abba", which is the Aramaic form of "Daddy", is pretty crazy, but that's what Jesus did. Learning how to find this intimacy with God as Christ did confirms our identity as His children:
The greatest gift I have ever received from Jesus Christ has been the Abba experience. "No one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27). My dignity as Abba's child is my most coherent sense of self. When I seek to fashion a self-image from the adulation of others and the inner voice whispers, "You've arrived; you're a player in the Kingdom enterprise," there is no truth in that self-concept. When I sink in to despondency and the inner voice whispers, "You are no good, a fraud , a hypocrite, and a dilettante," there is no truth in any imaged shaped from that message. As Gerald May has noted, "It is important to recognize these self-commentaries for the mind tricks they are. They have nothing to do with our real dignity. How we view ourselves at any given moment may have very little to do with who we really are."
How funny, I find myself going between both of these extremes in one sitting!

Intimacy with God and others involves tenderness or compassion. I love Manning's description of the power of compassion in the following paragraph (all quote and not much analyzing...I just love the quotable-ness of this section):
Tenderness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone. The mere presence of that special someone in a crowded room brings an inward sigh of relief and a strong sense of feeling safe. The experience of a warm, caring, affective presence banishes our fears. The defense mechanisms of the impostor -- sarcasm, name-dropping, self-righteousness, the need to impress others -- fall away. We become more open, real, vulnerable, and affectionate. We grow tender.

Jesus did what he did (hang out with the sinners and the outcast) because his Father loved him. We do the same...we can only truly love when we realize our Belovedness. This growing compassion is what allows us to love others especially when it is difficult to do so. It allows us to forgive indiscriminately. However, showing compassion to our enemy is hard! Manning says that this takes time, and we need to be patient:

Experientially, the inner healing of the heart is seldom a sudden catharsis or an instant liberation from bitterness, anger, resentment, and hatred. More often it is a gentle growing into oneness with the Crucified who has achieved our peace through His blood on the cross. This may take considerable time because the memories are still so vivid and the hurt is so deep. But it will happen. The crucified Christ is not merely a heroic example to the church: He is the power and wisdom of God, a living force in His present risenness, transforming our lives and enabling us to extend the hand of reconciliation to our enemies.

This is pretty amazing and breaks down many barriers. Manning says that "The heartfelt compassion that hastens forgiveness matures when we discover where our enemy cries." He also says that, "Wherever the gospel is invoked to diminish the dignity of any of God's children, then it is time to get rid of the so-called gospel in order that we may experience the Gospel." We are not only called to forgive, but also to look at our own deep-seated prejudices. A prejudice often comes from either fear (which comes from a lack of understanding of the "other") or from an inflated sense of self-importance and comparison.
...Whenever I allow myself anything but tenderness and compassion to dictate my response to life -- be it self-righteous anger, moralizing, defensiveness, the pressing need to change others, carping criticism, frustration at others' blindness, a sense of spiritual superiority, a gnawing hunger of vindication -- I am alienated from my true self. My identity as Abba's child becomes ambiguous, tentative, and confused.

To deny that we have these prejudices, whatever they might be, is self-defeating in getting rid of such thoughts. Manning quotes Sister Barbara Fiand as saying, "Wholeness is brokenness owned and thereby healed." We need to give up acting like we have it together and let God fix us in his time!

I see a correlation between forgiveness, compassion and "knowing". When we spend time with God, we get to know him and his Complete love for us. When we spend time with others (especially those not like us, or the object of our hatred), we find that we see our brokenness in them, acknowledge their Belovedness as equal to ours. We don't have to like them, but we can love them. Also, knowing others helps us to put away the fear that causes prejudice, fear that comes from the "unknown". We need to fully realize that all of us are Beloved without exception...he made us after all. This is what we need to understand in order to do God's work on earth.
What makes the Kingdom come is heartfelt compassion: a way of tenderness that knows no frontiers, no labels, no compartmentalizing, and no sectarian divisions. Jesus, the human Face of God, invites us to deep reflection on the nature of true discipleship and the radical lifestyle of Abba's child.

I hope I can see the prejudice, hate and fear, as well as the self-importance and down-playing of myself that I have allowed to pervade my heart. Especially hatred toward myself. God will mend in his time. Let me be patient and wait on Him.

1 comment:

the happy windchime said...

I loved "Abba's Child," and other writings by Brennan Manning.