Returning to Abba’s Child

I have been remiss on posting more from Brennan Manning’s incredible book Abba’s Child. I have continued reading but have found that re-writing the words that  stick to my soul help me to process more. So, if not for anyone else’s benefit but my own, I return to digesting this rich text …

[eponymous chapter]

“In His human journey, Jesus experienced God in a way that no prophet of Israel had ever dreamed or dared. Jesus was indwelt by the Spirit of the Father and given a name for God that would scandalize both the theology and public opinion of Israel, the name that escaped the mouth of the Nazarene carpenter: Abba.

Jewish children used this intimate colloquial form of speech in addressing their fathers, and Jesus Himself employed it with His foster-father Joseph. As a term for divinity, however, it was unprecedented not only in Judaism but in any of the great world religions. Joachim Jeremias wrote,

‘Abba, as a way of addressing god, is ipsissma vox, an authentic original utterance of Jesus. We are confronted with something new and astounding. Herein lies the great novelty of the gospel.’

Jesus, the beloved Son, does not hoard this experience for himself. He invites and calls us to share the same intimate and liberating relationship.

The greatest gift I have ever received from Jesus Christ has been the Abba experience. ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matthew 11:27). My dignity as Abba’s child is my most coherent sense of self. When I seek to fashion a self-image from the adulation of others and the inner voice whispers, ‘You’ve arrived; you’re a player in the Kingdom enterprise,’ there is no truth in that self-concept. When I sink into despondency and the inner voice whispers, ‘You are no good, a fraud, a hypocrite, and a dilettante,’ there is no truth in any image shaped from that message. As Gerald May has noted, ‘It is important to recognize these self-commentaries for the mind tricks they are. They have nothing to do with our real dignity. How we view ourselves at any given moment may have very little to do with who we really are.’

Tenderness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone. The mere presence of that special someone in a crowded room brings an inward sigh of relief and strong sense of feeling safe. The experience a warm, caring, affective presence banishes our fears. The defense mechanisms of the impostor – sarcasm, name-dropping, self-righteousness, the need to impress others – fall away. We become more open, real vulnerable and affectionate. We grow tender.

How would you respond if I asked you this question:

Do you honestly believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?

If you could answer with gut-level honesty, ‘Oh yes, my Abba is very fond of me,’ you would experience a serene compassion for yourself that approximates the meaning of tenderness… Scripture suggests that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by tenderness.

By the tender mercy [compassion] of our God who from on high will bring the rising sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

… The Holy Spirit is the bond of tenderness between the Father and the Son. Thus, the indwelling of the Spirit bears the indelible stamp of the compassion of God, and the heart of the Spirit-filled person overflows with tenderness… scripture points to an intimate connection between compassion and forgiveness. According to Jesus, a distinctive sign of Abba’s child is the willingness to forgive our enemies (Luke 6:35).

God calls His children to a counter-cultural lifestyle of forgiveness in a world that demands an eye for an eye – and worse. But if loving God is the first commandment, and loving our neighbor proves our love for God, and if it is easy to love those who love us, then loving our enemies must be the filial badge that identifies Abba’s children.

The demands of forgiveness are so daunting that they seem humanly impossible. The exigencies of forgiveness are simply beyond the capacity of ungraced human will. Only reckless confidence in a Source greater than ourselves can empower us to forgive the wounds inflicted by others. In boundary moments such as these there is only one place to go – Calvary.

Stay there for a long time and watch as Abba’s Only-Begotten dies utterly alone in bloody disgrace. Watch as He breathes forgiveness on His torturers at the moment of their greatest cruelty and mercilessness. On that lonely hill outside the city wall of Jerusalem, you will experience the healing power of the dying Lord.

Understanding triggers the compassion that makes forgiveness possible… Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.

. . . The sons and daughters of Abba are the most nonjudgmental people. They get along famously with sinners… how I deal with ordinary people in their ordinary unbelief on an ordinary day will speak the truth of who I am more poignantly than the pro-life sticker on the bumper of my car.

The way of tenderness avoids blind fanaticism. Instead, if seeks to see with penetrating clarity. The compassion of God in our hearts opens our eyes to the unique worth of each person. ‘The other is ‘ourself’; and we must love him in his sin as we were loved in our sin.’

The self-acceptance that flows from embracing my core identity as Abba’s child enables me to encounter my utter brokenness with uncompromising honesty and complete abandon to the mercy of God… What makes the Kingdom come is heartfelt compassion: a way of tenderness that knows no frontiers, no labels, no compartmentalizing, and no sectarian divisions. Jesus, the human Face of God, invites us to deep reflection on the nature of true discipleship and the radical lifestyle of Abba’s child.

This entry was published on January 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Returning to Abba’s Child

  1. So honest and true, Erica! I love the paragraph describing what it feels like to be unconditionally liked by someone. It just made me feel how I feel when I walk into a room and my best friend is there. It’s so much easier to be yourself and be vulnerable when you have them next to you. What a great example!

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