I love listening to broken people talk about God. There is no moralizing, no pontificating, no fake humility about how they are just so blessed. Just. So. Blessed.
Give me a good alcoholic who has to try every day to stay on the wagon, give me someone who has had their heart broken once or 100 times in their life, give me a screwup who really blew it and now lives with a true sense of humility.
Because these people know they have nothing to offer God in return for God's love. There is not even an attempt at a barter, at offering up a life well-lived in exchange for a little blessing from God.
This is probably why Jesus had an affinity for prostitutes and folks caught in adultery and rotten, scoundrel-y tax collectors and lepers and children and the rejected. It never crossed their minds to think they could somehow try to earn Jesus' favor. All they could hope for - beg for - was Jesus' mercy.
One of my favorite writers on the spiritual life is Brennan Manning. Manning was a priest who had to leave the priesthood because he fell in love and got married. He was also an alcoholic who lived a sober life for quite some time and then, when he died, it sounds like the drink had gotten the better of him again.
I love his writing because he knew he was broken and there was almost nothing he could do to make himself whole. At least, nothing of his own power.
Because of this ruthless self-awareness, he had a life-long love affair with Jesus. When he writes, you can feel the gratitude and amazement ooze off the page.
This quote, which has comforted me almost more than any other, sounds like Brennan Manning is talking to himself, even as he talks to his readers:
"Get this if you don't get anything else: The spiritual life begins with accepting God's wholehearted love for our wounded, broken, surly, frightened, sorry selves. There is no other starting point."
Anyone out there wounded or broken?
What about surly? (Alice raises her hand)
That is the place - right there - where you can most powerfully experience God's wholehearted love.
No bargaining, no bartering, no putting on a show.
Just stand right there in all your broken glory and receive God's wholehearted love for you.