Appetite for Grace

Appetite is a trigger word for me because I have struggled with an eating disorder most of my life.
Over 70 years of living has brought me to a variety of tables, physical and spiritual, laden with food and drink. Some spiritual food appeared healthy but was toxic and dangerous to my soul, including some junk theology. I would sometimes binge (and purge), on some rich and temporarily satisfying ideas, sometimes snacking and grazing from multiple “tables” kept me going. I needed a constant supply so I could apply myself to important spiritual work.
My first spiritual meals were spoon-fed when I was a child. Some I’ve had to prepare myself and have served (sometimes force-fed) to others. Hunger and thirst is designed by God to prompt us to take action. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness has been something Jesus called “blessed”…and I worked hard at being blessed and blessing others.
At 70, my body can’t handle the way I used to eat physically, nor handle the expenditure of energy I did in younger days. I’ve become a lot more aware and intentional about new ways of thinking about food versus what I’ve always done. I’ve rediscovered the satisfaction of simple in order to prioritize the important over the urgent. Today I carry a 13 year recovery chip signifying freedom from my eating disorder one day at a time.
Hopefully aging has made me a bit more self-aware emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. In “retirement” I am creating space for a more contemplative and healthy way of nourishing my soul.
“The Reign of Grace” message series at my church has been a tasty meal. I do have a hard time with the word “reign.” To me it implies authority and authority can (and has been) abusive depending on whose reigning. The authority attributed to God that I was taught became oppressive, and demanding. I was raised on sermons like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and sermons about a Holy God who could not be in the presence of sinners so God had to abandon and punish Jesus on our behalf. He then wouldn’t have to send all humanity to a place of eternal conscious torment… just the ones who didn’t ask Jesus into their heart. This, I was taught, is how God “so loved the world.”
So I said a magic prayer to “accept” Jesus and promised I would be a “sunbeam and shine for Him each day”. I would share this “good news(?)” the grace of God with everyone – ’cause if a person didn’t say the magic prayer before they died, they were going to hell.
I swallowed this whole because over hundreds of years, wise men who loved God and wanted to spare people from going to Hell preached this good news, and thousands of people were “saved”. Itinerate preachers traveled all over the world. Some filled (and still fill) stadiums of “sinners” who need to be saved from the wrath of God. Prestigious seminaries turned out myriads of preachers and teachers who had earned lots of letters behind their names mastering the theology of The Bible, an infallible, inerrant document passed down through the ages as THE “Word of God”. So as a child, I learned not to question such high authority but in my childlike heart (where the spirit of Jesus actually did live) I believed the God I loved looked more like Jesus, not an “angry god of wrath”.
As a youth I abandoned the whole idea all together because I then was taught that God also pre-determined which people would be “saved” and which he would send to conscious eternal torment. As a young adult, I intuitively knew this had to be a myth invented to scare people into churches so clergy could build monuments to themselves. I didn’t think even Jesus believed in THAT god.
In 1975, everything changed. I became a mother. Now I held in my arms a beautiful little girl. Along with the joy of this precious gift, fear set in immediately!
Fear pushed me back to “what if the church people were right?” Love for my daughter led me back to reading the Bible all over again just in case. Just like choosing food for her by reading labels, avoiding processed food, eating real food from organic farms and grinding up grass fed meat -pre-processed food was out, whole unprocessed was in. I knew I must do the same spiritually. Her eternal destiny might be in jeopardy. Pre-processed theology was out, Greek lexicons were in. I wanted raw spiritual food so I could grind it myself.
I absolutely love learning. Unlearning is harder. One must constantly research and ask questions in order to clarify what constitutes truth. To continue the food metaphor, in the seventies, health food markets were scarce. No google, no Whole Foods, no Home Chef. There were a few “health nut” writers but they were mostly discredited by the establishment #followthemoney.
And so it was with western evangelicalism in the seventies and eighties. New translations and paraphrases were emerging, but most were being interpreted through the same lens of the same “angry” God, willing scapegoat, elect, eternal bliss or fire and brimstone theology. Teaching that was processed & passed down from a legalistic hierarchy of church authoritarianism established to control people through fear.
Unfortunately, my all or nothing character defect drove me into some extremes of my own that I am still putting through the grinder. But the centrality of Christ’s finished work is my rubric.
God the Son became FLESH , not a holy book. He willingly submitted Himself to a womb, and thus to the whole of humanity. HE was touched with every human emotion, temptation, torture and final death for every man woman and child who ever lived or ever would live. Fortunately we have accurate eye-witness accounts that are trustworthy and happily we have apps that give us lexicons and grace messages to help us interpret them.
Birthing a child opened my heart to a love relationship I could never have comprehended. Motherhood created a hunger for truth that continues to bring me to the banquet table In remembrance of Him.
The reign of grace series has reinforced a more third century Eastern Orthodox view of Jesus which has set my heart aflame with a more Christ-like perspective of our good, good Father. “The Word became flesh” in Jesus’ humanity. Words on a page written by men inspired as they were, could never express the fullness of God, His triune being, His love for mankind, and the lengths to which He would go to restore His image in me. Jesus is son of man, and exact representation of the Father lived out in flesh and blood. I am beginning to see that a theology about God that doesn’t look like the life of Jesus can not be Christian theology. God was in Christ, (not forsaking Him EVER) reconciling the cosmos to Himself from the foundation of the world. Of course it is a mystery how it all was accomplished, if I could understand all mysteries then I would be a god. But today, after sitting at the Encounter table I am fully satisfied with the meat and fruit offered to me today. Grace, grace, God’s grace is a Person, not a theology. Grace that is greater than any darkness or distortion that veils the loving face of God the Father in me. Thank you Jesus.

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