Vol 2: 42 The Soul of God: Offering God our Brokenness – God’s Grace in Broken Places

In this Advent season, a time of grace and hope, we often misunderstand grace – grace, however is a gift, not for how good we have been – ala God checking a list to see who is naughty and whose nice, but a gift of grace in the midst of brokenness, barrenness. If this is the case, then grace is indeed an act of hope, especially in our difficulties we face in these days. Ray Anderson, in his theological memoir, The Soul of God, states that indeed this is the case.

Anderson begins with some hard to receive words: “The grace of God must first kill before it can make alive” (p. 101). He continues: “The grace of God requires barrenness not our belief as a precondition. True faith and true obedience come as a gift of God’s grace, and the inner logic of that gift requires that where we have inserted a human possibility the grace of God must remove it. This was true for Moses, as he experienced his own failure and futility, only to witness God’s power and grace through his weakness” (p. 101).

Anderson also reminds us of Abraham and Sarah – Abraham believed he could fulfill God’s promise to him through Ishmael, rather than through the impossibility of Sarah bearing a son. But it is precisely in the midst of Sarah’s barrenness that God’s grace is manifest.

And this is what we need to embrace as well if we are to be a people who are transformed by God’s re-creative work in us as God makes all things new. We not only participate with God in God’s mission, but we are also transformed through God’s mission taking hold of us. When we think we have something to offer God as a precondition to our being involved with God in God’s mission – the mission becomes about us, rather than about what God is accomplishing. But the mission is not about us – because God’s grace presupposes barrenness, not fertility (as in the case with Sarah).

It is in our weakness – read through the narrative of God’s encounter with his people throughout Scripture, it is always in our weakness that God’s presence, God’s activity is manifested. It is when we say to God, “I’ve got this, take a break,” that we no longer are in need of God’s grace, nor of God’s hope, love, nor mercy – and as a result, we fail. Such failure is indeed a grace, because it realizes that we have nothing to offer to God except our brokenness, our barrenness – so that all God does in us, and all God does through us is indeed the active outworking of God’s mission.

And so Anderson concludes: “We must understand that the grace of God presupposes barrenness, not fertility; that impossibility from the human side is the condition which demonstrates most clearly the inner logic of grace. We must also learn that humans have a share in the grace of God; that human obedience and faith are not set aside by grace, but are drawn into the grace of God as an indispensable aspect of God’s ministry, [God’s mission]. After all, Isaac did not drop down from heaven on a supernatural parachute! Rather, his birth resulted from a human act as much as did the birth of Ishmael. Grace is not a supernatural addition to a natural life, but the empowering of natural life to realize and produce a divine potential. The miracle of God’s grace is not that Abraham could disseminate his seed, but that a barren woman could conceive from it!” (p. 102).

This Advent and this Christmas, as we think of what gift we can give God – we realize that what we give are things that the world discards – our failures, our barrenness, our brokenness. In offering such “gifts” or “non-gifts” to God – these are indeed acts of faith, acts of obedience, recognizing that the nothing we have to offer is exactly what God needs to carry out God’s mission, and graciously to work through us to transform the world.

May we give God all of our nothingness and be open to receive the gift of God’s grace – that, as the Gospel reveals, is fully manifested in Jesus Christ – the content of God’s grace.

  1. Just catching up and this reflection of grace is truly beautiful when I think about it all our nothingness and God’s grace ALWAYS right there———wow!

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