It seems those most likely to miss God’s work in the world are those most convinced they know exactly what to look for, the ones who expect God to play by the rules.

— Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. 90.

Making Us Capable

“Do you mean that God never punishes anyone for what he cannot help?”

“Assuredly. God will punish only for wrong choices we make. And then his punishment will be redemptive, not retributive: to make us capable — more than merely capable; hungry, aching, yearning to be able — to make right choices, so that in the end we make that one supreme right choice our wills were created to make — the joyful giving up of our wills into his!”

“How do you prove that?”

“I will not attempt to prove it. If you are content to think of God as a being of retribution, if it does not trouble you that your God should be so unjust, then it would be fruitless for me to try to prove otherwise to you. We could discuss the question for years and only make enemies of ourselves. As long as you are satisfied with such a god, I will not try to dissuade you. Go on thinking so until at last you are made miserable by it. Then I will pour out my heart to deliver you from the falsehoods taught you by the traditions of the elders.”

— George MacDonald, The Landlady’s Master, quoted in Knowing the Heart of God, p. 308-309

Switching on a Light

Love and fear have an opposite effect on you. The principal effect of fear is that it prevents you from seeing where love is present, whereas love helps you to see where you are afraid. Love makes you conscious. It switches a light on in your mind. This light brings everything into view. You can see into every corner of your mind. Love does not judge, so nothing is hidden. Love does not condemn, so there is no deception. Love does not censure, so all is revealed. Love exposes the fears you identify with, the secret shame you haven’t forgiven, the old wounds not yet released, and every other unloving thought that blocks the awareness of love’s presence.

— Robert Holden, Loveability, p. 139

Grace Gets Out of Hand

Philip got out of God’s way. He remembered that what makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out, but who it lets in. Nothing could prevent the eunuch from being baptized, for the mountains of obstruction had been plowed down, the rocky hills had been made smooth, and God had cleared a path. There was holy water everywhere.

Two thousand years later, John’s call remains a wilderness call, a cry from the margins. Because we religious types are really good at building walls and retreating to temples. We’re good at making mountains out of our ideologies, obstructions out of our theologies, and hills out of our screwed-up notions of who’s in and who’s out, who’s worthy and who’s unworthy. We’re good at getting in the way. Perhaps we’re afraid that if we move, God might use people and methods we don’t approve of, that rules will be broken and theologies questioned. Perhaps we’re already afraid that if we get out of the way, this grace thing might get out of hand.

Well, guess what? It already has.

— Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. 39-40.

Healing through Forgiveness

The beauty of forgiveness is that it releases us from patterns in which we are caught. It releases us from being a victim and being caught in situations we do not like. Forgiveness changes our perception. When we see situations differently, things actually are different for us. Basically, all healing has to do with changing our perception and seeing things in a new light. Forgiveness allows us to live in a way that raises us above the situation; thus the situation changes.

Some people are afraid that forgiveness will lock them into a situation of sacrifice where they will continue to be abused. This is not the truth, because forgiveness actually shifts the relationship pattern, changing us and the other person. Any area where we feel stuck or any place where a person is bothering us is a place that calls for forgiveness. Every problem, temptation, distraction, and all busyness that is avoidance occurs because we are afraid to change. Guilt hides the place where we are afraid, and because we get stuck in it and the bad feeling, we do not recognize the healing and change that forgiveness brings. It is forgiveness that moves us through both the guilt and the fear.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 3.

Leading to Jesus

Sad indeed would the whole matter be if the Bible told us everything God meant us to believe. But herein is the Bible itself greatly wronged. It nowhere lays claim to be regarded as the Word, the Way, the Truth. The Bible leads us to Jesus, the inexhaustible, the ever-unfolding Revelation of God. It is Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” not the Bible, except as leading to him.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, First Series, “The Higher Faith,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, p. 74.

Making Us Good

“But if God can do anything he please,” said Evans, “he might as well make us good, and there would be an end of it.”

“That is just what he is doing,” returned Marion. “Perhaps, by giving them perfect health, and everything they wanted, with absolute good temper, and making them very fond of each other besides, God might have provided himself a people he would have had no difficulty in governing, and among whom, in consequence, there would have been no crime and no struggle or suffering. But I have known a dog with more goodness than that would come to. We cannot be good without having consented to be made good. God shows us the good and the bad; urges us to be good; wakes good thoughts and desires in us; helps our spirit with his Spirit, our thought with his thought: but we must yield; we must turn to him; we must consent, yes, try to be made good. If we could become good without trying, it would be a poor goodness: we should not be good, after all; at best, we should only be not bad. God wants us to choose to be good, and so be partakers of his holiness; he would have us lay hold of him. He who has given his Son to suffer for us will make us suffer too, bitterly if needful, that we may repent and turn to him. He would make us as good as good can be, that is, perfectly good; and therefore will rouse us to take the needful hand in the work ourselves — rouse us by discomforts innumerable.

— George MacDonald, The Vicar’s Daughter, chapter 25, quoted in Knowing the Heart of God, p. 286.

The New You

You get it right when you realize that you cannot go back to who you once were. And this is a good thing. You already did that person. Now it is time to be the new you. Now it is time to embrace that person you were who got you here. That person is brave. That person is resilient. That person is complex. That person is deserving. You are deserving.

This is why so many people say in hindsight, Now it all makes sense. It is not because they made one decision that turned out perfectly – that landed them in the room they wanted to stay in for the rest of their lives. It is because they made a series of decisions, and each one led them into a new room. And even when they were sure a room was not where they were supposed to be, or it felt really hard, or they could not imagine it getting better, they did not give up. They realized that they had to keep going forward into the next room and then the next, until they found the one that felt right.

— Sherre Hirsch, Thresholds, p. 183