Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen
I just finished reading the last book written by my favorite author: Brennan Manning. It took only two sittings from start to finish. It was a bitter sweet read, but worth every word. Brennan’s final words echo his earliest work, the theme of his life:
That in the end, my sin will never outweigh God’s love. That the prodigal can never outrun the Father. That I am not measured by the good I do but by the grace I accept. That being lost is a prerequisite to being found. That living a life of faith is not lived in the light, it is discovered in the dark. That not being a saint here on earth will not necessarily keep you from being in that number when the march begins. -Robert Benson
All is Grace is a raw narrative of Brennan’s life. It does not read like any of his other books. He tells the story of where he came from, his formation, his search for God, and his lifelong struggle with alcoholism. This book is raw. He shares the story of his failed marriage and failed relationships. He spends precious few words on his success. I got the sense that because of the toll of his alcoholism, his fame, influence, and life were cut short. Because of the poor choices he made, he is now alone, with a caregiver, in a modest apartment in New Jersey. It was sad to read about the shell of a giant that now pens his last memoir. It seemed when I read it a “rags-to-riches-to-rags” story. But here’s the good news.
The Good News
The irony of the story of his life is that yes, there are consequences for our choices, but in the end, grace covers it all. Grace covers the fact that some of his talks in front of thousands of people were when he wasn’t sober. Grace covers that behind the scenes after some conferences, he would neglect his family. God moves with or without us. In Brennan’s case, grace flowed through him, not because of him. And that, ironically, is the message of grace – and of Brennan Manning. God loves you as you are and not as you should be. He loves Brennan not as he is or was, and that’s a powerful thing. God used the message of unconditional grace to penetrate hearts, mine included. He used a broken vessel to do amazing things and expose the Father for who He truly is. That’s good news.
It’s good news because I’m just as flawed as Manning -more than him probably. It stirs my soul as I participate in a church to evangelize the message of grace. We are all sinners. We’re all damaged goods. But in the light of Grace, we’re covered. Or to use one of Brennan’s favorite Cajun phrases, “lagniappe – compliments of the house. Grace.” If Christianity is about working, doing, and appearing, I don’t want it. Brennan reminds us it is the passionate and relentless pursuit of us by the Father is central. We are loved by Abba. Period. That’s the message.
Some people may read this last book and wrestle with the contents. They may compare it to other works by Manning. Please don’t. It’s not meant to be. It’s his memoir. The story of his life, good and bad. His co-writer John Blasé closes well with is thoughts on Brennan:
Brennan has never stopped doggedly reminding us of our deepest longing – that grace, God’s unconditional love for us, runs on, pure, in spite of, as well as because of, us. He has been a priest among us, giving indelible order to our suffering. Once a priest, always a priest. But he has also been broken among us, time after time, forgiven and blessed, as we all are.
Have you read any of Manning’s books? You should. Post any feedback or comments you’ve processed if you are a reader of Manning.