Published: Fall 1996 in Feature Story

God Loves the Wounded

From a chapel talk by Father Brennan Manning
Author, “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus”

My good friend in Denver—a former pro basketball player—asked his handicapped son one night, “Daniel, when you see Jesus looking at you, what do you see in His eyes?” After a pause, the boy replied, “His eyes are filled with tears, Dad.” “Why, Dan?,” my friend asked. “Because He’s sad.” Daniel stared at the floor for a long time. When he finally lifted up his eyes, they were glistening with tears. He said, “Jesus is sad because I’m afraid.”

The sorrow in Jesus lies in our fear of Him, our fear of life, our fear of ourselves. The sorrow of Jesus lies in our self-absorption. Richard Foster wrote, “Today the heart of Christ is an open wound of love. He aches over our distance and preoccupation. He mourns that we don’t draw close to Him. He grieves that we’ve forgotten Him. He weeps over our obsession with muchness and many-ness. He longs for our presence.”

Most people don’t know the love of God except in some vague and abstract way. It’s one thing to feel loved by God when we’re moving securely in the fast lane, when our life is together, when all our support systems are in place. At moments like that, self-acceptance comes relatively easily.

But tell me, what happens to you when your life falls through the cracks, when sin and failure scar your soul, when your dreams are shattered, when your plans have failed, when you’re regarded with suspicion, when you’re covered with shame and confusion, when you sink deeper and deeper into despondency, when you come to rest on the basic “stuff” of the human condition? Do you still know that you’re the beloved child of the Father, or does your God love you in your goodness and not in your brokenness and failure as well?

The 14th Century mystic, Julian of Norwich, said, “Our courteous Lord does not want His servants to despair because they fall, often grievously. For our falling does not hinder Him in loving us.” What G. K. Chesterton calls the “furious love of God embodied forth in Jesus of Nazareth” is proclaimed to who you really are, whether you like that self or not. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, “The reason most of us never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with Jesus is that we so seldom acknowledge our own unhealthiness before Him.”

Jesus Christ says, “Come to me.” Don’t wait until you’ve got your head on straight, your act cleaned up, you’re free of sin, you’re confirmed in grace, you’re feeling benevolent toward yourself, but come now, skeptical, cynical, wounded, frightened, angry, lonely, crippled with fear, bowed with shame and tilting toward despair, and I’ll meet you where you are and love you as you are—not as you should be, because you’re never going to be as you should be. “Let me be who I am,” Jesus says. “Acknowledge me as a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unparalleled forgiveness, and a love that keeps no score of your wrong doings.”

And, through an intimate, heartfelt knowledge of Jesus as the Son of compassion, we will learn to be gentle with our ourselves and our own brokenness.

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