Learning to Trust: Reflections on the death of Brennan Manning

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” – John 15:9

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During my first season in Kenya, I wrote it on a notecard and stuck it on the bathroom mirror in the room where I lived in the Ham’s house. I recited it to myself, memorized it to the point where it became written on my heart. I thought it was for a season – a theme for that time in life.

I was wrong.

I once heard it said that every great writer only ever says three things – they just find different ways to say it. Every writer has a mission – a message that is theirs to declare with every ounce of their story.

Since then, I’ve seen it amongst my most read authors – be it books or blog.

The words of Brennan Manning began to resonate in my heart as I journeyed out of high school and into college – a young evangelical, trying to find my way into a deep faith and practice, while journeying through the emotions of a teenage girl – somehow I felt like I fit in his world of ragamuffins. Many others in different circumstances have felt the same.

It was like an open flood-gate- I took in everything he said. It wasn’t full of new ideas, but somehow he managed to say them in a way that I listened.

He wrote, and I read – and through his words, I heard Jesus.

Still, I keep a battered copy of “Ruthless Trust” with me.

Today, upon hearing the news of his death, I think of the significance that this man had on the lens through which I process the world.

It was his words that I read around the time of my parent’s divorce, and his books whose pages became worn both during times of self-examination and conviction, and during break-ups and heart-ache. My heart asked questions of identity and belonging, yet  practically I just wanted to know what would happen next.

His words repeated the same message again and again – everywhere I read. We are uncontrollably loved by the Father. Brennan’s words never left you looking at Him – they always pointed to Jesus – who always points to the Father.

In wondering about the future, and processing the present, this prayer was ever on my lips:

“Father, I believe you love me. Help me to know your love more.”

Though I thought it was a simple prayer uttered by a small singular voice, I have come to recognize the same prayer in those around me. Whether it is with friends talking over coffee in a cozy cafe, or in the presence of a family in a home of battered tin surrounded by a pile of all of their earthly belongings.

What if we all knew we were loved by the Father? What if we lived out of this trust?

In the end of “Ruthless Trust”, Brennan comes to the central point of his book, after taking the reader on a heart journey.

“Returning to the central theme of this book, as stated in Chapter 1: The splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure and delight than the Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, and all the other human glories combined. Why does our trust offer such immense pleasure in God? Because trust is the preeminent expression of love. Thus, it may mean more to Jesus when we say, “I trust you,” than when we say, “I love you.”

Where am I in all this? With you, clasping hands each morning and crying out in unison, “Lord Jesus, I trust you, help my lack of trust.”

Brennan,

Thank you for sharing your brokenness and honesty with a world of readers wider than you will ever meet on this earth.

May we be inspired to share openly

And in this brokenness, thank you for never wavering to write, with deep conviction, of the depth of the Father’s Love.

Together, may we trust Him more.

Thank you for teaching me to cry Abba, Father.

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