All is Grace
It was the mid to late 70’s, we were planting a church in Waynesburg, Ohio which is where I grew up. Starting a church in a small town where you grew up is the same as a prophet is not without honor except in his home town. It was difficult going at times. We were renting an old pool hall. We had cleaned it up, painted the floors and walls, bought metal chairs, found an old upright piano and had been meeting there for a couple of years. We had drunks walk in, had someone shoot the window with a crossbow bolt and break it. We were making the best we could. It was the time of the Catholic Charismatic Movement and we had a number of Catholics and former Catholics coming. We had befriended through one of our friends, a Franciscan priest.
The priest’s name was Brennan Manning who became a fairly famous author and conference speaker. We invited him to come to our storefront church and minister. He graciously did so and brought one of his friends from the College of Steubenville with him. We all had dinner together and then he shared at the church. For a small, storefront church, we had a good turnout that evening. Brennan’s message was uplifting, exploring his primary theme of the grace of God.
Later, I went to Duquesne University to hear him speak. It was always thought provoking and inspirational. Through the years he authored a number of books which we would read. Abba’s Child was one of the first; then came Ragamuffin Gospel which became his most famous, top selling book. To this day it sells well and is recommended highly by those who have read it.
To me, he was a spiritual giant, an honest writer. Sometimes his writing was so bluntly honest about himself that you would cringe reading it; all the while it is hitting home. I would read it and think about being that blunt and honest myself.
Brennan became an alcoholic when he was 16. He battled the addiction all his life. This was what he was so honest about. Oh, he would have periods of sobriety and dryness, but in periods of depression, he would lapse. The grace he spoke of came from the grace he received. Abba kept calling him back and loving on him. Out of his pain he learned unfathomable grace granted and we were the beneficiaries of his journey.
I just read his last book he wrote, All is Grace. It was written just before his passing in 2013. It is a memoir and again, the most blunt of all his writings. He reveals the deep pain and rejection from childhood, his looking and hoping for someone to say, be my friend. He reveals the depth of his addiction which eventually took his life. Throughout all his life he struggled for acceptance and love, while we saw him as a spiritual giant, close to God. He described himself once as an angel addicted to beer.
Saddened by the end of his life and now privy to his suffering, I do not look down. I still look up and honor the man and his wonderful revelations of the grace of God.