Brennan Manning died today. Or at least I read about it this morning. It may have been yesterday. Regardless of the exact time, when I read the news I immediately knew I was going to need to cry. I couldn’t keep it in. I didn’t know right away exactly why I was so affected. People die all the time. People with very little and even profound impacts on society, movie stars, neighbors, relatives, etc. But this man was different. Very different.
I saw Brennan speak in a chapel service at SBU in 1996 and up until that point I had never seen such a ragged, sinful, beautiful mess of a figure speaking so boldly about the unending tender mercy of the Father. I was dumbfounded to think God could flow so freely through a used up alcoholic former priest. He changed me. Then I read his books. And he changed me again. From the time I first met God it would take almost 20 years before I really understood that not only did God unconditionally love Brennan Manning, but He unconditionally loved me too. This man was an integral part of that process. And so I honor him as a man. As a forgiven sinner. As God’s beautiful child.
Today I am mysteriously sad because….
“there passes a brother who understood me.”
That’s the simplest way I can describe him.
And he’s gone.
Who is left like Brennan? Unfettered to religion and social convention. Speaking of God’s intimate heart and passionate love for me through the slurred and tired speech of years of alcoholism. Years of being slandered and ostracized by thousands of close-minded church organizations. And yet he still speaks. Because all that Brennan spoke of is eternal. It’s about the Father and His undying, unyielding love for all of us, despite our sick, sinful, and twisted ways.
Given the condition of his body and mind in his last days I am happy he is home. He gets to put a mesmerizing beautiful face to the voice he heard all his life…..saying “I love you Brennan. I love you Brennan. I love you Brennan. No I’m not worried about that. I love you Brennan.”
Thank you for boldly going where no man was willing to go all these years. To that messy place of being a notorious sinner, captivated so deeply by the Father’s heart. Thank you for baring your soul so uncomfortably wide that we could all find mercy. You will be truly missed by all of us.