“Shalom, be at peace. I understand your fears, your failures, your brokenness. I don’t expect you to be perfect. I have been there. All is well. You have my love. You don’t have to pay for it and you can’t deserve it. I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself. You only have to open and receive it. You only have to say yes to my love – a love beyond anything you can intellectualize or imagine.”
It was three years ago, and I was on a time of personal spiritual retreat. On my drive to the retreat location I had stopped at a bookstore and picked up a book called Souvenirs of Solitude by one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning. He words above are from the first chapter. They were words he felt like God spoke to his soul during a similar time.
Brennan Manning died last Friday. Far from perfect, he was a man who struggled with grace. He was a Korean war vet, a Franciscan priest who left the priesthood to get married and then eventually divorced, and an alcoholic. Far from being remembered as a Saint, I think Brennan would want to be remembered by the moniker he proclaimed in one of his books: A Ragamuffin. In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan described himself this way:
“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”