I was recently invited to join the members of the TheOOZE Viral Blogger Network. You can learn more about the Ooze online community by following the link listed in my blog’s Links list. Each month, Ooze viral bloggers select from a list of books of interest to Christian thinkers and pilgrims and agree to submit reviews on their own blogs and on the Ooze website. For my first review, I chose, and read in a hour, a new book by Brennan Manning, entitled, the furious longing of God.
Exactly at the midpoint of Brennan Manning’s book come these words:
Until the love of God that knows no boundary, limit, or breaking point is internalized through personal decision; until the furious longing of God seizes the imagination; until the heart is conjoined to the mind through sheer grace, nothing happens.
Nothing happens. Nothing that matters happens in you. Nothing that matters happens through you. Nothing happens to transform you, to heal you, to wake you up to the dawn of the life God has in store for you.
Brennan Manning wants something to happen. Brennan Manning wants something to happen for you. And so he pulls out all the stops — emotional, rhetorical, poetic — to push you and prod you and upset you and compel you to open your eyes and heart and soul to see the love, the real and powerful and vibrant and furiously intense love, God has for you.
But that’s not quite right. It is God that wants something to happen in you! Brennan is merely trying to serve as the messenger, to point, to reveal, to pull back the curtain, to try to express what cannot be rightly expressed, but to hint at it poignantly enough to bring us to look for ourselves.
If the book has a fault, it is that sometimes Manning’s “cuteness,” his toying with language to try to stretch it to say what cannot be said, his use of stories about himself which are mostly rather unflattering, sometimes get in the way and may be distracting, making us think about him instead of the One to whom he points.
And, yet, I cannot really fault him for the way he has done the book. You can’t get at personal relationship impersonally. You cannot hint at, point at, the transforming love of God by being scholarly. You have to get personal. You have to be, not just the teacher, but the messenger, the one who can say, “Can you see what I see?”
The book is not scholarly, not an essay or a treatise, but more a collection of reflections and meditations and prayers and poems. I did appreciate, however, Manning’s frequent use of quotations from other authors, from other Christians, from other pilgrims. One of my favorites was this ironic observation from Gerald May:
The entire process (of self-development) can be very exciting and entertaining. But the problem is there’s no end to it. The fantasy is that if one heads in the right direction and just works hard enough to learn new things and grows enough and gets actualized, one will be there. None of us is quite certain exactly where there is, but it obviously has something to do with resting.
And then there are the lines from Rich Mullins’ song, The Love of God, one of the sources for the title of Manning’s book:
In the reckless, raging fury
that they call the love of God.
That is the relentless refrain of this book: open yourself to the love of God for you! The essence of our faith is not about what we can do for God, but about what God has done, what God is doing for us. It is a book about God, a book that hopes to lead you, the reader, into God’s embrace, a book that urges you and entices you, not to know about God, but to know God.
It is there, in the embrace of God’s love, that our wounds are healed, and it is there that we may become healers, instruments of God’s peace … which is our intended vocation!