T(w)o(o) Hard Truths

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In reading Gulley and Mulholland's If Grace is True in two short chapters I've encountered two experiential truths--statements the authors make that are confirmed not by authority, but by my own experience. In fact, one of the experiences recorded by the authors (not detailed below) so closely parallels my own it is nearly frightening.

But let me share with you the truths that I have experienced and that I find ring entirely true. At one point the authors say

I've never experienced a God of wrath. I've heard such a God preached. I've read of such a God. I've encountered wrathful people who claimed to be acting on God's behalf. I've even allowed such sentiments to tarnish my view of God. Yet, in the midst of all these distortions, I never experienced a wrathful God. (p. 11-12)

I couldn't agree more. In times of hardship, bereavement, devastation, despair, sorrow, anger, any negative feelings, the God who has been by my side hasn't been shaking a finger at me and saying, "See what you brought on yourself. I told you and told you and told you, and you wouldn't listen. This is your well-deserved comeuppance." No, the God I've experienced has said, "I love you." When my mother died suddenly, He was there saying, "I am with you through it all. Let me walk with you." I am ashamed to say that while I took Him up on part of that walk, I didn't follow through. And yet He still loves me. This is the God I experience every single day. Not a God of wrath, the keeper of the ledger in the skies, but rather a God of compassion and of intimacy, a God who wants good for me more than I desire it for myself. What a blessing! It hadn't occurred to me to state this truth--but I have never seen a God of wrath. I have not seen "the Glory of the coming of the Lord who is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored." I thought I always despised the song because it reeked of Northern imperialism, but I can see what I dislike is that this is not the image of the God I love, but a distortion. My God is more like verse 5: "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,/With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me."

She might have learned what I've learned--that intimacy with God is not about joining a church. It's not about knowing your religion's doctrines, tenet by tenet. It's not about knowing your holy writings, backward and forward, in their original language. It's not about knowing God as a theory or abstraction. Intimacy with God is more like making love than joining a club, hearing a lecture, or reading a book. There are simply some things we must experience for ourselves. (p. 15)

To which I breathe a relieved Amen! If I were required to do any of the things delineated above I would miss salvation by ten-thousand parsecs or more. Even if my beliefs are wrong, seeking God with all my heart will correct erroneous perceptions. Loving Him will help alleviate my misconceptions. Intimacy is not achieved by question and answer, although it may initially help. It is achieved by loving unconditionally, by gazing into the gaze of the one who loves you and seeing yourself as you are loved. His love alone makes us worthy to be loved and we can only know it through knowing Him intimately. Like making love, it is far better to engage in the action that to hear a lecture on its physiology or read a book about the neuro-chemical patterns generated.

God loves us unconditionally. Isn't it about time that we returned the favor?

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That God loves us is the powerful, central message. Here's an excerpt from an excellent book I'm reading:

Saint Augustine, author of one of the first treatises on catechetical instruction, commended this approach. He noted that since people are moved by the love of another for them, the merciful love of God for sinners should be the center of a catechist's teaching: 'With this love set before you as an end to which you may refer all that you say, so give all your instructions that he [or she] to whom you speak by hearing may believe, and by believing may hope, and by hoping may love." --From John Meehan's "Two Towers"

BTW, lucky Tom of Disputations is away - I bet he'd make a disputation on this post.

What little I have read of the mystics, they say the exact same thing!



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 15, 2005 8:31 PM.

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