Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Furious Longing of God -- Review


THE FURIOUS LONGING OF GOD. By Brennan Manning, Foreword by Mark Batterson. Afterword by Claudia Mair Burney. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2009. 141 pp.


In the closing chapter of this brief, even breezy, devotional book, Brennan Manning, who is by confession a former Franciscan and a recovering alcoholic, writes:

All that really matters is this: Have you experienced the furious longing of God or not? (p. 129).
The question sums up the message of the book – God has a furious longing to be in relationship with humanity. Therefore, am I ready to embrace God’s passionate longing to be in this relationship? This is a question that isn’t easily answered, for such ardor for union with humanity, might seem so consuming that one’s freedom might be lost. Yet, who doesn’t wish to be loved passionately, especially if the one who loves is God?

This book is composed of eleven brief chapters, the longest being a chapter on healing. After each of these chapters, Manning has provided two questions under the heading: “Consider This.” The questions are designed to draw us into the message of the chapter, making it useful for personal reflection and for group discussion. The message of the book is drawn from personal experience. While he was once a Franciscan, he is also a recovering alcoholic, who at one point woke up from a drunken stupor, lying in a doorway, being kicked by a disgusted woman.

The morning I woke up in the alcoholic boozy fog, I looked down the street to see a woman coming toward me, maybe twenty-five years old, blonde, and attractive. She had her son in hand, maybe four hears old. The boy broke loose from his mother's grip, ran to the doorway, and stared down at me. His mother rushed in behind him, tucked her hands over his eyes, and said, "Don't look at that filth. That's nothing but pure filth." Then I felt her shoe. She broke two of my ribs with that kick (p. 35).

"That filth," he writes, "was Brennan Manning, thirty-two years ago." But, in grace he discovered that he was loved by God, and it is from this journey of faith, not all of which is positive in nature, that Manning reflects on God’s passionate pursuit of humanity.

The foundation for this message is laid out in the book’s opening chapter, appropriately titled “Genesis.” As Christian interpreters of the Song of Solomon have been doing for centuries, Manning picks interprets this biblical love song allegorically to refer to God’s relationship with the people of God. The passage that he lifts up is well known – “I am my beloved’s, and His desire is for me” (7:10 NASB). Manning notes that if the reader does nothing else with the book, he hopes that he or she will pray this passage, taking it personally, “I mean very personally.” We are the beloved of God, and if one is willing to receive this love, then one may experience a number of beautiful things – some of which he enumerates (pp. 21-22).

Although I’ve never read Brennan Manning before, I’d heard of his Ragamuffin Gospel. The title of that book has always intrigued me, but I’ve never read it. But, when a copy of this book arrived, I decided to take a look and see what it was about. If not for the inside back flap of the dust cover, which identified the author, I would have assumed that I was reading an evangelical book (the book is published by a rather conservative evangelical publisher). There is, an evangelical tint to this book, but I’m assuming that while he hangs around with evangelicals, he never left the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever his denominational loyalties, his message that God is passionately longing to be in relationship with humanity, in such a way that one’s life might be transformed, shines through brightly. Indeed, the book carries a message that resonates with me – a message of God’s unconditional love.

Whether one is evangelical or Catholic or mainline, this is a book that has possibilities. It won’t take long to read, but it will remind the reader that we are beloved, and that no matter how far we might try to run, God will continue to pursue us. If we will receive this gift – to understand the nature of God’s gift, we are directed to consider the parable of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree – then we may live life with boldness. And if we receive this gift of God, then the life of faith will no longer be a duty, but a way of life. Such an invitation is worth taking up.


A thank you to Kelly Hughes for again sending me something different (for me) to read.



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think I can say this since I was last married in a county courthouse.

This morning's service might have been the warmest I have ever witnessed, including marraiges and funerals.

Truly Jesus is a faultless way to eternal peace in this world and the next(?). I learned that again today.

PS I'd love be a part of sharing positive race experiences (or even negative ones) if/when it's brought up in a more loving context than late last night- when I was fast asleep.

David Mc

Anonymous said...

I imagine God's longing whenever I hear this song. 40 years ago it was introduced.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYKJuDxYr3I&feature=related

Details and extras if you’re interested

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x27vyz_simon-garfunkel-bridge-over-trouble_music

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_over_Troubled_Water_(song)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Jeter

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine
If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Have a good week- David Mc

Anonymous said...

An error, this was to be the second link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DBl5gAs6WI

The original 2nd link might be ok, but my work computer won't let me see it, so I can't even review the result of the error right now.
David Mc

John said...

Yep, today was quite extraordinary.

John