Doxology in the Darkness

Meditations on Good Friday, Stanislaus Rapotec
04 Oct 1913 – 18 Nov 1997

Good Friday, which remembers the crucifixion of Jesus, has been given a number of titles over the centuries. Some construe “Good Friday” evolved from a mistranslation of the German phrase “God’s Friday” or “Guttes Freitag.” 1290 is the earliest known use of “Goude Friday” found in a South English dictionary.

It has been called Holy Friday, Great Friday, Mourning Friday, Silent Friday, and even Long Friday.

Good Friday is good because it is so bad.

On Good Friday foundations were shaken, hopes were crushed, and the inconceivable became reality. Good Friday pulls the vaporous veil of life aside and reveals things often don’t go the way we want. Incongruence is the norm. The daily bits and pieces of living have been turned upside down.

It’s called “Good” because Jesus absorbed all the bad, dark, injustice, evil and sin of the past, present, and future into His own body, nailing it all to the cross so that we could be forgiven and freed.

It’s called “Holy” because the love demonstrated by Jesus at this moment causes a holy hush to blanket the world; we remove our shoes entering holy space. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

It’s called “Mourning” because our hearts break when confronted with the brutality that accosted Love. The emptiness we feel in the immediate aftermath of so great a tragedy bores deeper and deeper into our soul.

It’s called “Long” because Jesus’ friends didn’t know Resurrection Sunday would actually happen. They entered the silence of a long Friday night…a long Saturday…and a long Saturday night of despair and devastation. They cried out the opening word of Lamentations, “Echah” which means “How?”

How could this have happened?
How could you allow this God?
How will I ever find joy again?

But this is the journey of Good Friday. This is the journey of life. We must learn to sing songs in the night. We must learn to trust God has something better beyond the dark night. Brennan Manning said it this way:

“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”
~Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

I am still learning this lesson, the lesson of whispering a doxology in darkness. In some moments I am surprisingly able, yet in other charcoal moments, the darkness overwhelms me… until I remember.

There is nothing about Good Friday that seems right, and that is the point.

On Good Friday, God dealt death, darkness, and devastation so fierce a blow that the upturned tables of life started to turn right side up.

The dominion of death was changed from a finality to a fermata.

The darkness of injustice was pierced with the Light of Love.

The dungeon of sin was given the keys to freedom.

We live in the “now and not yet” period where Love has pierced the darkness bringing about the capacity for heaven to invade earth. However, heaven and earth will not be united into the Oneness of God’s presence until Jesus returns again (Maranatha).

So, in the meantime, through faith, trust, and love, we push back the darkness as we learn to whisper doxologies in the dark.

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
~Psalms 30:5

Missing Brennan

brennan_manning

Our lives are influenced, enhanced and affected by so many people. Some of them we know well, some…not so much. In my life one person that I had the honor of knowing to some degree was Brennan Manning, and his impact lingers still.

For whatever reason, I came across a review i wrote on his book, “The Furious Longing of God.” As I skimmed my words from years ago, my heart sighed, “I miss Brennan.

To me, he was the most perfect, imperfect person, who had been bathed in the ferocious grace of God, who could articulate the divine love and yet still, like me, struggle.

His words pierced my soul with the grace of God, inspiring me to love more, judge less, rest in divine mercy. Although most of his books carried the same theme, it is a theme that is still desperately needed, the Good News of God’s love through Jesus to the broken-down, wayward ragamuffins.

Here is the quote of Brennan’s that I stumbled upon causing me to remember with thankfulness his impact in my life.

“The ordinary pablum of popular religion caters to the idealistic, perfectionistic, and neurotic self who fixates on graceless getting worthy for union, while allowing the prostitutes and tax gougers to dance into the kingdom. Our strategies of self-deception persuade us that abiding restful union with Jesus is too costly, leaving no room for money, ambition, success, fame, sex, power, control, and pride of place or the fatal trap of self-rejection, thus prohibiting mediocre, disaffected dingbats and dirtballs, like myself, from intimacy with Jesus. Until we learn to live peacefully with what Andre Louf calls “our amazing degree of weakness,” until we learn to live gracefully with what Alan Jones calls “our own extreme psychic frailty,” until we let the Christ who consorted with hookers and crooks to be our truth, the false, fraudulent self motivated by cowardice and fear will continue to distance us from abiding restful union.”

Bedraggled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out

“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.
‘But how?’ we ask.
Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’
There they are. There *we* are – the multitude 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 faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”
― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

ragamuffin

Thanks Brennan

imgBrennan Manning2“God loves you as you are, not as you should be, because you’ll never be as you should be.”

Thank you Brennan for showing us the Abba of Jesus as only you could…RIP…

I have had a few great opportunities to be with Brennan and experience his love for God through his teaching. He was always impacting, always honest, and always revealed a picture of Jesus and the love of Abba that was real, radical, scandalous and immersed with ruthless grace.

I remember asking Brennan about dealing with a particular “hot button” issue in the church, and how to approach dealing with the people involved…his answer was quick, and honest. He said, “You know Monty, God has just called me to love whatever person or group of people who are in front of me, no matter what or who they are.” I thought, “that’s too easy.” But I knew he was absolutely right. Grace has a way of simplifying issues. Grace is the great equalizer of -all- sins. Grace is the reality of Jesus that Brennan breathed in and out daily.

Here are some of my favorite Brennan quotes:

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

“Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your opinions about yourself. ”
― Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”
― Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

“Imagine that Jesus is calling you today. He extends a second invitation to accept His Father’s love. And maybe you answer, “Oh, I know that. It’s old hat.”

And God answers, ‘No, that’s what you don’t know. You don’t know how much I love you. The moment you think you understand is the moment you do not understand. I am God, not man. You tell others about Me – your words are glib. My words are written in the blood of My only Son. The next time you preach about My love with such obnoxious familiarity, I may come and blow your whole prayer meeting apart.

Did you know that every time you tell Me you love Me, I say thank you?”
― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

“While the impostor draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life.”
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned–our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift, “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.”
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”
― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

In his book “The Furious Longing of God” Brennan told the story of Yolanda. She was in a care center for Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Brennan was serving as a chaplain, and on one particular day he was told that Yolanda was dying and he should go and see her quickly.

“… I went up to Yolanda’s room on the second floor and sat on the edge of the bed. Yolanda is a woman thirty-seven years old. Five years ago, before the leprosy began to ravage, she must have been one of the most stunningly beautiful creatures God ever made.  . . . But that was then.
Now her nose is pressed into her face. Her mouth is severely contorted. Both ears are distended. She has no fingers on either hand, just two little stumps.
Two years earlier, her husband divorced her because of the social stigma attached to leprosy, and he had forbidden their two sons, boys fourteen and sixteen, from ever visiting their mother.  . . . As a result, Yolanda was dying an abandoned, forsaken woman.
I… prayed with her. . . .  [T]he room was filled with a brilliant light. It had been raining when I came in; I didn’t even look up, but said, “Thanks, Abba, for the sunshine. I bet that’ll cheer her up.”
As I turned to look back at Yolanda – and if I live to be three hundred years old I’ll never be able to find the words to describe what I saw – her face was like a sunburst over the mountains, like one thousand sunbeams streaming out of her face literally so brilliant I had to shield my eyes.
I said, ‘Yolanda, you appear to be very happy.’
With her slight Mexican-American accent she said, ‘Oh, Father, I am so happy.’
I then asked her, ‘Will you tell me why you’re so happy?’
She said, ‘Yes, the Abba of Jesus just told me that He would take me home today.’
I vividly remember the hot tears that began rolling down my cheeks. After a lengthy pause, I asked just what the Abba of Jesus said.
Yolanda said:
‘Come now, My love. My lovely one, come.For you, the winter has passed, the snows are over and gone, the flowers appear in the land, the season of joyful songs has come.The cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.Come now, My love. My Yolanda, come.Let Me see your face. And let Me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.Come now, My love, My lovely one, come.’
Six hours later her little leprous body was swept up into the furious love of her Abba. Later that same day, I learned from the staff that Yolanda was illiterate. She had never read the Bible, or any book for that matter, in her entire life. I surely had never repeated those words to her in any of my visits. I was, as they say, a man undone”

As Brennan closed his eyes forever on this side of the grave, and then opened them and saw Jesus face to face, I believe the first thing he heard from the mouth of God was:

‘Come now, My love. My lovely one, come. For you, the winter has passed, the snows are over and gone, the flowers appear in the land, the season of joyful songs has come.The cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.Come now, My love. My Brennan, come.Let Me see your face. And let Me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.Come now, My love, My lovely one, come.’