This year is nearing extinction. The last hours of 2014 are departing like visitors that have outstayed their welcome. In these diminishing moments, we often look back, look inward, and look forward. We remember and we expect.
When I ponder the past year, I recall both opportunities and disappointments. I am keenly aware of both imperfect instances and times of triumph. As I imagine ahead, there is an incalculable amount of issues worth improving in 2015. But when I quiet the voices of discontentment and tune into the lone song in my soul, only one change is required and desired. In this New Year, I yearn to experience the transforming embrace of Jesus.
Brennan Manning writes about this intimate experience in his precious book Abba’s Child. He highlights an experience when John, the “disciple Jesus loved”, was “reclining next to Jesus”, leaning back against his chest (John 13:23-25). What a picture of intimacy, security, belonging, and trust.
In light of this account, Manning shares that “until I lay my head on Jesus’ breast, listen to His heartbeat, and personally appropriate the Christ-experience of John’s eyewitness, I have only a derivative spirituality” (p 126). This experience with Jesus changes us. I long for that experience as this old year sets and the new one rises.
Manning chose to be embraced in his desperation. His account was this: “As the alcoholic fog lifted, I knew there was only one place to go. I sank down into the center of my soul, grew still, and listened to the Rabbi’s heartbeat” (p 133). We are invited to do the same; to “remain in His love” (John 15:9).
How beautiful it is that Jesus wants to interact with us in this way. He is not a distant Deity. He wishes to hold us. As the scriptures say, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11).
This Divine embrace quiets, comforts, and changes us.
Changed in His Embrace
I wonder what would change this next year as I allowed myself to lavish in the Savior’s loving arms? I imagine Christ holding me in this way and the physical warmth of His chest beside my cheek melting into my spirit, dissolving my insecurities. Brennan points out that this disciple who was held by Jesus was the one who later penned the words “In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love” (1 John 4:18). His loving embrace dissolves fear.
Similarly, his hugs heal our pain. This interaction is illuminated in Brandon Hathaway’s powerful poem called “The Hug Poem”:
Count on countless siren songs this New Year. The competition for comfort outside of Christ is continuous. Where we choose comfort is where we connect. All the more reason to rest in our Source of strength instead the arms of the adulteresses of our day. Remember that “when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). In His infusing presence, we transcend our limitations, becoming someone we never were before. In other words, “The recovery of passion starts with reappraising the value of the treasure, continues with letting the Great Rabbi hold us against His heart, and comes to fruition in a personal transformation of which we will not even be aware” (Manning, p 133).
In 2015, may we experience the embrace that dispels despair and pacifies pain. May we rest in our Abba’s assurance. May we hear His heartbeat and may unprecedented transformation result simply because we have been with Jesus.
“In the arms of Jesus, I will find my peace and rest
I hear Him calling, come to me and rest
Carried by my Shepherd, cradled tightly to His chest
There and there alone, my soul finds rest
So I will rest in the shelter of my Savior’s embrace
Hidden safely in the refuge of His mercy and His Grace
And I will sing hallelujah to the One who sets me free
And you will find me in the arms of Jesus”
– Steven Curtis Chapman
Wishing all of you a New Year of transformation! I wholeheartedly appreciate all of you who read my articles and share them with others.
Additional articles referring to Brennan Manning: The Incomplete Christian Life, Prayer of a Fatherless Father, and Accepting Abba’s Affection
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