April 30, 2013
Yeah, I know it’s been a while since I have written. No particular reason other than I simply have not had much to say. If I had to write this with a weekly deadline I would be miserable so you will have to bear with my inconsistencies.
Brennan Manning died a few weeks ago. You may not know who that is. Manning was a prolific Christian writer who first came onto the scene with his book entitled The Ragamuffin Gospel. I never had the opportunity to meet him or even see him but if I had I would have told him that he brought me through one of the most difficult times in my life.
Manning was a skid row alcoholic, a recovering alcoholic, an alcoholic again, recovering again… he was a priest, and then not a priest… he was married and then divorce… he was a much sought after speaker and retreat leader. And as mentioned before he was a writer. Truthfully, if you read one of Mannings books you pretty much read them all but they are still all worth reading. I’m not sure that makes any sense but it fits with the paradox of Brennan Manning.
Several years ago I went through one of the loneliest, most difficult times of my life. Depression is not something that I am terribly familiar with on a personal level at least not until the past 5 years, but I have learned. I sat in my living room for months with a blanket over the window so no one could look in and more importantly no light could come in. I was in total despair. But thanks be to God I was not alone. Through the love of my wife and children, a counselor, some meds and Brennan Manning I came through that dark time.
So what does Manning write about that is so important? Simply this: We are the beloved of God…. No matter what! No religion in history has a God who loves sinners and broken human beings. But Christians do! Manning spoke of this outrageous love of God in all of his books. He reminded us that no matter who we are or what we have done we are desperately loved by God.
No doubt he had his detractors… those who were critical because he didn’t speak enough about sin or judgment. And I confess I’m unclear how those things fit into his theology. But sometimes we just need a spiritual hug, not words of condemnation. Brennan was gifted at those hugs. He certainly had seen the downside of life and he knew the necessity of understanding the love of God. He pulled no punches when he spoke of the church and our hypocrisy in refusing to accept people that Jesus had accepted. He reminded us that grace is either a free gift available to all of humanity or it is not. We have this bad “habit” in the church of proclaiming that saving grace is free and we can do nothing to deserve or earn it. Someone then asks how they can be saved and we turn around and say “well all you have to do is receive Jesus as I your Lord.” Do you get that? It’s free but you have to do something to get it? Once again this raises a paradox in the church.
One thing I know for sure… if you are not comfortable with mysteries and paradox then the Christian faith is not for you. If you think you have it all figured out bless you in your naiveté.
Brennan Manning will be missed. But thankfully we still have him through his writing. I can’t say you will like his books. I think it’s possible that one has to be in a certain place to appreciate his words. But I would encourage you to give him a shot. If it’s not time yet for you to become familiar with Manning… it may be time later.
God’s blessing be upon you Brennan. And thank you.