It'd be good to see you sometime. Go write that novel. I'll buy it.
Deep and wide, deep and wide,
there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.
I learned this song as a child, words and accompanying motions. There was a childish aspect to the motions; they were fun, no shame in that. But now I am a man, I’ve put away the motions, but held fast to the words. I have grown into them and they into me, they mean something now – the fountain of grace is deep and wide. I am haunted by these words.
I heard the statement again this week: ‘Well, I’m not even sure he’s a christian.’ It grieved me in the moment, literally hurt my heart. After the moment, later, in the privacy of my car, I wept. After all this time, after all the revolutions and reformations and revivals, we cannot get past being the prodigal’s older brother. There is a straight and narrow, we believe, a line one must not only talk but walk and straying from that path, say going to some far country, disqualifies the straying one, unfolds them from the fold, strikes their name from the lamb’s list. Rings are being given, robes pressed and cleaned, fat calves are gracing the spit while the band is warming up, and we, yes we, stand cross-armed just outside the shadow of the Father’s house, steaming, stewing, refusing to enjoy a grace both deep and wide. Make no mistake, the grace is deep enough and wide enough to ravish us even as we stand at the edge; the efficacy of the grace is not the question, but rather our enjoyment of it. The thought that we’ve been faithful and worked all the live-long-day and some scrap comes in at the eleventh hour and gets the same wage, same gift, same love, dare I say same heaven…well, that is gall to us, a bitter drink that allows us to not only hate the sin, but the sinner as well. Yes, the unspoken rancor: hate the sin and hate the sinner too. Surprisingly, we hate ourselves for the hating, but we also secretly like it for it gives us something, something to trot out to say ‘look what I did or didn’t do.’ We grab our bibles as a witness and point to straight chapters and narrow verses and exclaim ‘But he…’ while the Father pleads ‘Put down the book, lose the hate, and come inside.’ For some reason, we’d rather endure the cold. Old Dante believed hell was ice, not fire.
There’s an aged Baptist preacher named Will Campbell. Once, he wrote: ‘We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.’ That’s the skinny, right there. Until we can see and say and live those words, we’re all just much ado about nothing, either youngsters off’a’whoring or resentful older siblings lost in our own home. The only hope for any of us is that there’s a Father keen on adoption, with a river running through him drawn from his own Immanuelish veins, a fountain flowing deep & wide, a flood called grace. I pray that you, like me, will live plunged beneath such waters....deep & wide, deep & wide.