Thursday, February 28, 2008

we are the beggars (part 2)

I spent my last post outlining the various methods by which the homeless beg for money - intentionally a little tongue-in-cheek, though I acknowledge that the root problem is truly not at all funny. As I was writing, an interesting parallel popped into my mind that has proven extremely difficult to get out in words:

The homeless, in the way they approach us for money, are not all that different from us in the way we approach God for salvation.

I think a lot of times we feel spiritually homeless in this world - like we're in a place we don't quite belong but we have to do what we can to get by. We call it home, but it's not quite home.

Those of us who are Christians are quick to point out that our promise of salvation is "by grace, through faith" - that God is the one who reached down to us and offered a way out. And we're quite satisfied with that, for a time...

But before too long we get wrapped up in Bible studies, and serving at church, and going on mission trips, and working with the youth group, and making sure we're listening to the right music, and making sure we're reading the right books. We pick up a new vocabulary, a new group of friends, a new schedule for our week.

And then we start to judge ourselves based on the actions of our week... Did I pray enough? Did I read enough? Did I say the right things?

The answer is always 'no'.

Of course you didn't. You did not pray enough. You did not read enough. You did not say the right things... you certainly didn't think the right things.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us in this awkward, guilt-ridden state where we spend our days conning ourselves into thinking that we can beg our way back into God's good graces. And so we musicians strap on a guitar and sing another worship song. We wanderer's sign up for another mission trip and go halfway around the world for a week. We spiritually-insane run from one ministry to the next, spinning our wheels trying to give a piece of ourselves in a youth-group here, a small group there, a devotional study here.

Most of us simply stand by pitifully, motionless as the days and weeks pass by, unable to move out of the guilt engulfed grip sin has on our lives. As Brennan Manning has said,

"We are the beggars at the foot of God's door."

As much as we want to believe we are "saved by grace through faith", we live as though we can work our way in. But we simply can't. Grace is grace, and as for all our charades and all our antics, He looks past it all and grasps for the tiniest bit of faith that we still show in our hearts, and then pulls us in.

The last post posed the question, "What do we do when we're confronted with the homeless?" I'm not at all certain of the answer, still. Yet here I am, as homeless and miserable as anyone, and God's answer to me has been and always will be complete and absolute grace. And I fail to comprehend that. Most of the time I even fail to accept it. But I'm convinced that where He is ultimately leading me is a place of such desolation and helplessness that eventually I will finally realize that the only remaining constant there has been through my 26 years of missteps, mistrust, and mis-faith has been grace. And when I do finally get it, it is going to radically shift my life.

We are the beggars at the foot of God's door, and he has welcomed us in.

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