Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the death of author and priest Brennan Manning. I didn’t realize it until recently, but I had read one of his books, about 11 or 12 years ago. When I was in college, my next door neighbor in the dorm gave me a copy of a book that had been utterly life-changing for her. Through this book, Abba’s Child, my friend had a deeply impacting experience of God’s love. I read it and thought it was pretty good, and put it up on my shelf with all my other books. I can’t tell you why this book didn’t stir my soul at that time. I think I had always felt loved by God and never doubted it. But my spiritual journey has taken some dramatic twists and turns in the decade or so since, and today’s me is flabbergasted by God’s unconditional, never-stopping, always and forever love.
In typical fashion, I sucked at fasting this Lent. I am so ashamed at my inability to be hungry for even a few hours. Clearly, gluttony is my besetting sin. While I did not participate in the suffering of Christ, my lack of discipline made me keenly aware of my depravity and weakness, and also of the luxury of my life. “Fasting” for me meant skipping lunch, while much of the world clings to life on a fraction of my daily portion. I am comfortable and warm and clothed and fed. I am blessed beyond measure and I need to work harder at living simply so that others may simply live. Even not fasting has made me more keenly aware of the poor and downcast and I have been struggling to reconcile my life-style with how I have been called to become a servant of all.
I’m not sure how it happened, but Brennan Manning showed up to be my Virtual Spiritual Guide for Lent. When I’m doing my data entry job for the office, I often catch up on my favorite TV shows to pass the time. I gave this habit up for Lent and was looking for sermons to watch on YouTube. Somehow, I noticed a link to Brennan Manning’s classic sermon, “Abba Father,” and I remembered my friend’s book.
Watching that first sermon brought me to tears. Watching “Our Call to Participate in the Healing Ministry of Christ” brought me to gut-wrenching, body-wracking sobs.
There is something about Manning’s grumpy-old man, gravely voice shouting at you about how much God loves you. If you learn about Brennan’s loveless childhood and debilitating alcoholism in adulthood, these words become all the more powerful:
So this Lent, I’ve been watching all of his YouTube sermons again and again, soaking up his message about God’s incomparable love. I’ve been working extra hours lately for the office, which translates to less time writing for the blog but more time with earphones on, listening away to my spiritual coach for this season. I have been deeply impacted by Brennan Manning in the past month and had to share him with you, especially with those of you who are not familiar with him. I hope you take the time to listen to one of his sermons and let the message of God’s astounding love soak into your own soul.
P.S. Brennan Manning is best known for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, after which Rich Mullins named his band (another remarkable man!). I would love to read Manning’s autobiography, All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.