Providence hurled a chance at me yesterday to hear Brennan Manning speak in person. I spent Sunday morning listening to him tell me that God's burning desire for me is so great that were I to know its depth, all self-hatred would "fade like last night's dream."
"92% of Americans believe in God. But if you have believed in God, and yet not trusted God, you do not actually believe in God."
"Are you haunted by a fear of the Father and a dislike of yourself?"
"Never has there been a mother who overlooked her child's faults the way Jesus does yours."
Though I am having to paraphrase, these three quotes are what I remember best from the talk. In this sequence, they pretty accurately give us the heart of Brennan's message. The third was written on a slip of paper given to him by his grandmother, who gave him the first experience of unconditional love that he ever had. In poor health and against her doctor's recommendation, she came to visit him in his adulthood. They reminisced and laughed for hours, and she died on the train ride home.
With a giant vocabulary and such unlikely word pairings as "fierce mercy," "furious love," and "ruthless trust," Brennan beats the drum for the unwavering love of God for people as they are, the abandoned love of a Father for his hurting children, for whom he will go any length to reach.
It is ironic that in middle of the Bible belt, and in the most Churched nation in the world, the gospel in its utter simplicity and freeness is so scarce that we must pay money and go to a special retreat center to hear it spoken. But to curse the problem is not to deal with it. We must hear, and sit, and hear, and internalize, and hear. And newly identify as the beloved of God.
Tens of thousands. That's the number that Brennan puts on the hours that he has spent sitting in silence and solitude, absorbing, listening, and receiving the Father's love. In caves, monasteries, and deserted places. Being alone has never looked so good.