From Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning: (One of my favorite books)
“A while back Roslyn [my wife] and I took a day off and decided to play in the French Quarter here in New Orleans. We roamed around Jackson Square sampling gumbo, inhaling jambalaya, and finally stopping at the Haagen-Dazs shrine for the piece de resistance— a praline-pecan Creole hot-fudge sundae that induced a short lived seizure of pleasure.
As we turned the corner on Bourbon Street, a girl with a radiant smile, about twenty-one years old, approached us, pinned a flower on our jackets, and asked if we would like to make a donation to support her mission. When I inquired what her mission was, she replied, “The Unification Church.”
“Your founder is Doctor Sun Myung Moon, so I guess that means you’re a Moonie?”
“Yes,” she answered.
Obviously she had two strikes against her. First she was a pagan who did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Second, she was mindless, witless, naive, and vulnerable kid who had been brainwashed by a guru and mesmerized by a cult.
“You know something , Susan?” I said. “I deeply admire your integrity and your fidelity to your conscience. You’re out here tramping the street doing what you really believe in. You are a challendge to anyone who claims the name ‘Christian.’ ”
Roslyn reach out and embraced her, and I embraced the two of them.
“Are you Christians?” she asked.
Roslyn said, “yes.”
She lowered her head and we saw tears falling on the sidewalk. A minute later she said, “I’ve been on my mission here in the Quarter for eight days now. You’re the first Christians who have ever been nice to me. The others have either looked at me with contempt or screamed and told me that I was possessed by a demon. One woman hit me with her Bible.” “
Think on this for a minute and ask how you would have responded to Susan. Why as Christians do we not tend to reflect God’s love? I think Brennan Manning’s response is the exception, not the ordinary response. However, I think it should be the standard response from Christians. We are here to discover and then reflect God’s love. How can we do that if we are hitting someone else over the head with a bible, either figuratively or literally?
I personally think it has to do with what phase we are on in our journey. Peter Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality states that there are six stages of faith. Stages one through three deal with awareness, learning and serving. Then Peter says we hit The Wall. The Wall is where we challenge our faith, usually through some crisis in our life where we are stuck at some “Dark Night of the Soul.”
Once we emerge from The Wall, Scazzero says, “we are free from judging others.” Then we go on to stages four, five and six which deal with learning to be transformed into God’s Love. This is the place we need to strive to be in Christianity. We need to see each other with the value of the soul. However, Scazzero also says that not everyone does not make it to the other side of the wall. Some Christians live their whole life in stages one, two or three. The wall is uncomfortable and they retreat to a former place of comfort. I think this is a major problem. So many of us do not mature after hitting our wall. We choose to stay where we are comfortable (back to the pool of Bethesda).
So how do we get to the latter, more mature stages? Do we have to hit a wall? I think we have to at least question our relationship with Christ and the Father. Although that questioning often comes during crisis, perhaps one can come to that level of questioning without having crisis. When you come out of the wall, you define yourself as one loved by Christ and that you must be a reflection of that love. Gone is the judgmental notions of those who are of different religions, the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill.
Have you hit the wall in your spiritual journey? Have you come out on the other side? How are you different now? How would you respond to Susan, the Moonie?