A long time ago in a blogosphere far, far away, I announced I was trying to read more biographies this year and I'd post some thoughts along the way. This has not happened. Well, at least the last part. I have read some tremendous biographies this year. But I have not commented on them.
Today, that changes (at least in part).
I read in a single night Brennan Manning's All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir. I have no idea if you have interacted with Manning or not or have an opinion on him or not. Most people who have interacted with him also carry a pretty strong opinion.
Typically, the doctrinally tight-fisted (and that's not derogatory in my mind) don't like him because he's not a systematic theology kind of guy and he's messy and all over the map and quotes people who you may not want to be known for quoting. The rest of the folks love him because he's messy and all over the map and quotes from people who you may not want to be known for quoting - a little more like their own lives. And in case you're wondering if you've ever quoted someone you may not have wanted to quote, can you name any songs you know and sing along to that you wouldn't sing in front of your kids?
I consider myself a pretty doctrinally tight-fisted kind of guy. I know what I believe and I'm a fan of certainty. I also know I'm messy, all over the map, and played Toby Keith's I Love This Bar one time as a sermon illustration. No kidding. The reaction, shall we say, was mixed.
The short: Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest, left the priesthood to marry, got divorced, travelled the country speaking on behalf of Christ and His love, wrote some incredible books, and did all this while an alcoholic. Messy. All over the map. Etc.
When I was reading the book, I found myself so grateful. Profoundly grateful. Shed-a-few-tears grateful. Put-the-book-down-and-give-thanks-grateful. I had moments like that when walking through this man's life in words.
I was grateful for his authenticity. Rare is the writer who doesn't give a @#$% about what people think of him and shares from a place of humility. Plenty of people do that from the place of pride. Manning's not one of them. And if you're offended that I typed @#$%, this book is probably not for you.
I was also grateful for the picture of God represented. A God of immense grace and immeasurable mercy ravished Manning with His love and it messed him up in the best of ways. Beautiful. Living authentically in this river (Ez. 47) is Manning's testament to the world.
And lastly, I was grateful that if God could use Brennan Manning, He might could use me too. I'm no better. I'm different. But I do want to be used.
So pick it up and enjoy. Grab a friend for a great conversation afterward. And celebrate the God who takes ragamuffin's like us and does something incredible with them.
But that's just me thinking thoughts...