What I know about Brennan Manning is he knew (experienced, lived, trusted) the love of God. He lived in his position as God’s beloved child. And Brennan gave that gift to many, many people in his books and talks. Brennan died only recently, but his work showing us God’s uncontainable love lives on.
Brennan didn’t always grasp for himself the love of God. He spent some time in the gutter as an alcoholic. He tells that one time he saw an attractive young blonde, holding her little boy’s hand. The boy approached Brennan and said, “Mommy, look at him.” The woman pulled her son away. “Don’t look at that filth. All that is is pure filth,” and she kicked Brennan and broke two of his ribs.
During his gutter time, Brennan says, a friend flew down every two weeks just to sit with him in the gutter and to take him to breakfast. “He didn’t try to change me,” he said, “he just loved me.”
If Jesus had not pulled Brennan Manning out of the gutter — and if Brennan had not allowed Jesus to pull him out of the gutter — we would not have the enormous blessing of Brennan’s legacy of Christ’s love in his books and teachings.
But even more important is this: Jesus loved him and accepted Brennan and had compassion on him every bit as much when he was in the gutter as when he was teaching people about Jesus.
If you’ve never been in a gutter, how do you know Jesus loves you in the gutter? If you haven’t experienced desperate desolation in your life, how do you know the compassion of Jesus you experience there? We try to get people to get their lives together, and that’s all well and good. But how do we know what they will find only in their desperate place? At the end of his journey, the prodigal son knew his father far more intimately than did his brother, who’d been faithful all along.
Life can be hard, and we cannot anticipate all its twists and turns. God is not as concerned about the twists and turns as about our knowing Him in intimate relationship.
“The Word we study has to be the Word we pray. My personal experience of the relentless tenderness of God came not from exegetes, theologians, and spiritual writers, but from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching Him to help me understand with my head and heart His written Word. Sheer scholarship alone cannot reveal to us the gospel of grace. We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of *knowing* Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.” Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out