My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. ~ Brennan Manning, April 27, 1934 – April 12, 2013
I really cannot tell you exactly why Brennan Manning’s writings resonate with me so strongly. We are quite different. The practice of his Catholic faith is much different than I experience. His upbringing during the Depression is far removed from my privileged childhood. His conceptualization of God’s grace is even somewhat different than my own. And though we both have our demons, his struggle with alcohol is something I have not had to face. But there’s something gentle about his writings. Gentle in contrast to the abrasive world in which we struggle. The assurance keeps coming from him … calm … deliberate … drunk …sober.
We believe we’re invincible until cancer comes knocking, or we believe we’re making a comeback until we tumble down the stairs. God strips away those falsehoods because it is better to live naked in truth than clothed in fantasy.
The stark admissions of both the strength of sin and the power of grace can be startling to those who do not know much about him as they pick up any of his books. All Is Grace is an autobiography. I wish I could say that it is an incredible story of overcoming life’s battles with a bright shining faith. Instead it is often a sad story, marked by the recounting of pain and grief, sin and destruction, confession and admission. That’s not all it is, though.
But if I’ve learned anything about the world of grace, it’s that failure is always a chance for a do-over.
It is a testimony for those who feel they just can’t go another step. This story is not one that preaches to its readers to just have a positive attitude and it will all work out. It doesn’t gloss over the reality of pain and sorrow. It acknowledges the darkness and in doing so highlights the true guiding strength Manning never tired of sharing. All is grace.
The Trappist monk Thomas Keating once said, “The cross Jesus asked you to carry is yourself. It’s all the pain inflicted on you in your past and all the pain you’ve inflicted on others.” I believe that’s true. My cross suddenly became too heavy, and I couldn’t carry it. I just couldn’t.
I think most people could gain something from the insights of this book, but there is a certain kind of person living in a certain kind of pain who really needs to hear God’s love finding it’s way through Brennan’s life story.
Ragamuffins have a singular prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Any additional flourishes to make that cry more palatable are Pharisaical leaven.
Those people are the ‘ragamuffins’ that Brennan has spoken of throughout his walk on this earth. In some way that touches us all. For when we are honest, we must arrive at the truth that if we are going to be saved .. if there is any hope … All is Grace.
I highly recommend this book, along with Ragamuffin Gospel, as transformational in gaining appreciation for God’s greatest act of love, saving us in Jesus Christ. The only weakness I noticed in the book was toward the end … as it is apparent that his health was failing and the ending seems a bit rushed. But who can fault him for wanting to get it done? His time was short.
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it. – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
Thanks for reading, John
Some Brennan Manning books for your Kindle:
The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out