From My Bookshelf — Day 65
When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and I 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.
You are accepted. Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.
Jesus sat down at the table with anyone who wanted to be present, including those who were banished from decent homes. In the sharing of a meal they received consideration instead of the expected condemnation. A merciful acquittal instead of a hasty verdict of guilty. Amazing grace instead of universal disgrace. Here is a very practical demonstration of the law of grace—a new chance in life.
When we accept ourselves for what we are, we decrease our hunger for power or the acceptance of others because our self-intimacy reinforces our inner sense of security. We are no longer preoccupied with being powerful or popular. We no longer fear criticism because we accept the reality of our human limitations. Once integrated, we are less often plagued with the desire to please others because simply being true to ourselves brings lasting peace. We are grateful for life and we deeply appreciate and love ourselves.
If you really want to understand a man, don’t just listen to what he says but watch what he does.
The Kingdom belongs to people who aren’t trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves. Whatever we have done in the past, be it good or evil, great or small, is irrelevant to our stance before God today. It is only NOW that we are in the presence of God.
When our inner child is not nurtured and nourished, our minds gradually close to new ideas, unprofitable commitments, and the surprises of the Spirit. A closed mind kills marriages and human relations; it deadens feelings and sensitivities; it makes for a [person] that lives in a thousand and one tunnels, with no communication and no exit. If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don’t find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don’t cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God’s truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition.
Honesty is such a precious commodity that it is seldom found in the world or the church. Honesty requires the truthfulness to admit the attachment and addictions that control our attention, dominate our consciousness, and function as false gods. I can be addicted to vodka or to being nice, to marijuana or being loved, to cocaine or being right, to gambling or relationships, to golf or gossiping. Perhaps my addiction is food, performance, money, popularity, power, revenge, reading, television, tobacco, weight, or winning. When we give anything more priority than we give to God, we commit idolatry. Thus we all commit idolatry countless times every day.
Without personal honesty I can easily construct an image of myself that is rather impressive. Many of us do not want the truth about ourselves; we prefer to be reassured of our virtue.
To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace. Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness and the truth that we are saved sinners. There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.
When a man or a woman is truly honest (not just working at it), it is virtually impossible to insult them personally. There is nothing there to insult.
It is only the reality of death that is powerful enough to quicken people out of the sluggishness of everyday life and into an active search for what life is really about. Each moment of our existence, we are either growing into more or retreating into less.
The alternative to confronting the truth is always some form of self-destruction. In order to free the captive, one must name the captivity.
The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith. How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.
Brennan Manning — The Ragamuffin Gospel (pp. 26-136)
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ragamuffin as “a ragged often disreputable person; especially : a poorly clothed often dirty child.”
The sooner I can admit my ragamuffinness to myself, the better my life naturally turns out. Whenever I get to a place where I really think I’m something, it doesn’t take very long and life throws me a curve-ball just to remind who is in charge. I used to think much higher of myself than I currently do. I’m not putting myself down, I’m simply saying the less I knew the smarter I thought I was. In contrast, the more I learn and grow, the less I realize I know.
Applying yourself to learning and growing doesn’t mean you’ll turn cocky because you’re smarter than everyone else; for me it actually meant I humbled myself, approached life from a place of wonder and awe, and realized there’s more than one way to skin a cat. What works for you might not work for me, and what works for me might completely turn you off. That’s why life is full of a gazillion choices we could make. Personal preference doesn’t mean one person is right while another person is wrong.
When I was younger (and thought I was much smarter), most of my existence was somewhere in between the either-or continuum. As I applied myself to openness, growth, and honesty, I came to appreciate living in the both-and continuum. Living in either-or means someone has to lose and someone has to win. Either-or means you assume there is a right and a wrong. Both-and leaves enough room for acceptance of both parties.
I read a quote earlier this week that stung just a little: “The hard thing about being a bridge is that you get walked on from both ends.” Being a bridge means you’re attempting to span a divide in order to provide an impasse that currently doesn’t exist. Being a ragamuffin means humbly being of service for the sake of all parties. By being nobody special—a ragamuffin—we allow the Universe to use our skills for an outcome we could never imagine on our own. “The alternative to confronting the truth is always some form of self-destruction.” By assuming I’m something other than a ragamuffin, I instantly travel down the road of self-destruction and end up wrecking countless other lives in the process.
Do you think you’re something really special? Do you have a false sense of pride that gives you a certain level of arrogance? Do you think the world owes you something because you’re “chosen?” Do you look down on others who might not dress as nice as you, talk in perfect sentences, wear the right makeup, or have a body shaped to your liking? Are you closed-minded, stuck in your “ideas” you’re unwilling to reevaluate?
I say Ragamuffins Unite!! Become a somebody by first becoming a nobody. Shed the masks you have spent your entire life wearing. Put yourself in uncomfortable places. Connect with someone completely different than you. Talk to the worst sinner you can imagine and attempt to learn something from them. I guarantee you they know something you don’t and the only way you’ll learn something from them is by humbling yourself and listening.
By becoming a ragamuffin your mind will open and your heart will shift. Life will begin to unfold in ways you couldn’t imagine previously. Becoming a ragamuffin means you can finally look in the mirror and admit you are a bundle of paradoxes. By being open, your eyes begin to see the parts of yourself the masks were blinding you to. You are amazing but keep in mind you’re also nothing special. You’re a ragamuffin just like me and everyone else.
Have a blessed day.
Peace and Love,