Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tilted Halos...

I'm reading Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel. I've had it forever, but have never picked it up. I'm glad I did. It's been a good read so far, four chapters in. And the last chapter, chapter four, was the best so far. It seems ready-made for this season of life and underlines some things that God seems to be speaking.

Have you ever made a little halo over your head when you were facetiously trying to convince someone of your 'angelic innocence?' It's a cute little maneuver that I've utilized on several occasions, complete with a sly grin and sometimes a wink. It's actually more an admission of guilt than anything, and seems to communicate, "I know I'm being ornery/difficult/bad, but let's overlook that because you love me."

Manning starts chapter four with a little story about a self-righteous guy who takes himself way too seriously. He goes to the doctor who tries to diagnose the cause of the man's headache. After piously and indignantly answering the doctor's questions about his lifestyle and personal habits, the doctor offers this advice... "Simple, my dear fellow! Your trouble is you have your halo on too tight. All we need to do is loosen it a bit."


Brennan's point is clearly made throughout this chapter...too many people- Christian people- are walking around with their halos screwed down so tight that they are 1) hurting themselves and their understanding of God's love and grace, and 2) they are completely irrelevant to a hurting world who have no illusions of wearing a halo, let alone having it on straight and tight.

"The tilted halo of the saved sinner
is worn loosely and with easy grace."


Do we Christians really understand what we're "peddling?" I become less and less convinced of that the longer I live. And that's not a calloused bash against 'the church.' That's a sad commentary on my own life as well. Too many people are falling through the cracks because we/I talk a good game, but don't necessarily live it.

The cute, 'angelic halo maneuver' that many Christians do stopped being cute to 'the world' a long time ago. The gig is up. We've been uncovered and exposed.

Andrew Peterson has a song lyric that says,

"And it feels like the church isn't anything more
than the second coming of the Pharisees,
scrubbing each other 'til their tombs are white
They chisel epitaphs of piety"

I just feel like life has become a lot less "black and white" and "messier" than it used to seem. That's not a factor of TRUTH changing, but rather the reality of life when you are rubbing shoulders with people going through heavy, heavy stuff (let alone my/our own 'stuff'). Cliche, pat answers just don't carry a lot of weight in 'real life.' But for some reason, I/we haven't had the guts to admit that.

Part of the problem is that too many people-christian people, who claim to have the answers- are living with tight halos and cliche answers. And not just the tight halos and cliche answers.... but the lack of joy, the petty bickering, and the same hangups (albeit hidden) that 'the world' is condemned for struggling with.

Been there/done that... unfortunately.

"We" have tried to throw token answers and quick-fixes at people with gaping holes in their hearts and lives, and then wonder why some people aren't giving church and God a chance, or having given it a chance, are leaving faith and fellowship disillusioned and dissatisfied. We throw out the right verse or say the right thing, but seem to live as if we don't really believe it ourselves.

Having been a leader in the church, that's hard to admit. But admitting that weakness, although hard, is part of the reality of the "tilted halo" isn't it?

So what?

So... we/I need to get real. We/I need to get serious about living grace, not with tighter halos, but more sensitive ears and eyes and hearts.

Manning describes 'getting serious' this way...

The disciple living by grace (rather than law)...
1) ...trusts in the redeeming work of Christ and lives it by moving from 'mistrust to trust' with God, others and himself/herself.
2) characterized by a 'poverty of spirit' where he/she is deeply thankful for life and all God's favor, leaves others feeling blessed and esteemed (instead of judged), and lives in healthy humility
3)... lives in honesty, rejecting manipulation and deception, living transparently, and admitting limits even while rejoicing in a God who works without limits.


and now... my favorite paragraph of chapter four (Manning quoting a book by Donald McCullough)...

"Grace means that in the middle of our struggle the referee blows the whistle and announces the end of the game. We are declared winners and sent to the showers. It's over for all the huffing, puffing piety to earn God's favor; it's finished for all the sweat-soaked straining to secure self-worth; it's the end of all competitive scrambling to get ahead of others in the game. Grace means that God is on our side and thus we are victors regardless of how well we played the game. We might as well head for the showers and the champagne celebration."


Much to think about....much more to apply... personally and corporately.

amen... let it be so.


Amanda Beam October 30, 2009 at 1:15 PM  

GREAT post! this is definitely something i have to think about everyday that i come to work. the population we work with definitley look at us as if we are extra holy because we are "church people". i try to relate as much as possible...though obviously i can't completely. i guess the goal is let them see grace and that they are condemned. anyway! great post. :)

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