Session 4: Acknowledging Our Nothingness.


The fourteenth-century mystic Julian of Norwich said, “Our courteous Lord does not want His servants to despair because they fall often and grievously; for our falling does not hinder Him in loving us.” Our skepticism and timidity keep us from belief and acceptance, however, we don’t hate God, but we hate ourselves. Yet the spiritual life begins with the acceptance of our wounded self. Seek out a true contemplative—not a person who hears angelic voices and has fiery visions of the cherubim, but the person who encounters God with naked trust. What will that man or woman tell you? Thomas Merton responds, “Surrender your poverty and acknowledge your nothingness to the Lord. Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.” Brennan Manning, Chapter One

Acceptance of our wounded self.

Ouch. That doesn’t sound like fun, does it?

In a world where ‘bigger is better’ and ‘winning isn’t everything but the only thing,’ admitting to one’s self and to the world that I’m a wounded self sounds so defeating. So puny. So hopeless and helpless.

I mean, hasn’t everything I’ve learned in this life been driven by the worldly standard that one never admits that they just might be a ‘loser’?

Yet here’s a fourteenth-century contemplative saint telling me that I need not despair when I fail in life; Thomas Merton, a modern-day truth-teller, suggesting that I surrender my poverty and acknowledge my nothingness to the Lord; and Brennan Manning, a ragamuffin evangelist for God, saying, “Go ahead, Marty, admit to your woundedness and brokenness, so all the world might see!”

Double Ouch.

And if it were just these authors who are making these suggestions, I could possibly ignore their words; but then I open the New Testament and see Jesus inviting those who are broken, thirsty and hungry to come to Him so that we might finally admit to our failings in life and begin to find His true strength in our weakness and His joy in the midst of our sorrows!


Don’t these guys (and Jesus, for that matter) know that the church world I live in today despises losers? Don’t these voices from the past understand that losers don’t win the big prizes in our society?

How dare they suggest that I fall to my knees in weakness and failure, admitting freely that I’m a wounded self? Won’t the wolves out there find me in such stages of weakness and devour me? Won’t the religious critics come and point out that if I were a true leader I’d be a victorious Christian like they are? As a pastor, won’t my people come to me and say, “Marty, if you’re going to be our pastor, you need to be the strong visionary who displays confidence in your words and deeds?”

But wait!

In all truth, these voices that are demanding me to remain strong, never faltering or failing, while coming from good, well-meaning people, are actually demonic in nature, sent from the pit of hell to keep me from humbling myself before my Mighty God.

So what ‘the hell!’ I choose to forsake those voices today and say it, both loudly and boldly…for Christ’s sake, folks. I’m an imposter! I’m actually a loser and I desperately need a rescuing King that is stronger than I am!

I, Marty Boller, senior pastor, spiritual director, and contemplative coach, am a wounded self! There, I said.

Wow. Interestingly enough, I feel kinda good that I finally ‘fessed’ up. But…it sure feels lonely in the room right now.

Shh. I wonder what comes next?

My prayer: Lord, it hurts to admit openly that I’m a failure, a loser in life. Everything inside me over the years has fought to keep that ugly truth from being leaked to the outside world! Yet now, You are telling me that it is in my honest public confession of total weakness that I actually will find the reality of Your strength. So, Lord. I take the leap of faith. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder:Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.” This quote from Merton makes me curious. If every book I’ve read or every sermon I’ve ever heard falls far short in expressing the truest depths of God’s understanding and compassion for me, I’m wondering how very impressive this unadulterated Gospel of Grace must be?

So what is God speaking to you today as you live as Abba’s child in the midst of His Gospel of Grace?

Over an eleven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at God’s Gospel of Grace; Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance. We are using Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging as our guide. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Gospel of Grace home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

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