Archive: Dear Brennan Manning
I’m on the road today, so I’m revisiting one of my top posts. Enjoy.
You are to Christians what Woody Guthrie was to Bob Dylan. That’s the way I feel when I read your books anyway. Before Bob Dylan was Bob Dylan, he made a pilgrimage to New York City to find Guthrie, eventually tracking him down to a hospital in New Jersey. Woody was long past his prime, and succumbing to Huntington’s disease. Until then, Dylan had only been performing songs written by others, but visiting Guthrie inspired him to pen his first song, “Song to Woody.” In that experience, Dylan found his voice. Similarly, you has given a voice to countless Christians with your message of the fierce, and tender love of Christ.
You are my Woody Guthrie.
I first read The Ragamuffin Gospel either in late high school or early college, and connected with it in a deep way. It is an oddity that a boy of not even 20 could read “It is for the bent and bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God,” and feel the weight of those words. The connection was even deeper given the fact that in the forward, Rich Mullins describes his first experience with your teachings on a Kansas road that rolls right into my town. When I drive that road, I think of you.
If I were to go on similar trip to find you, I would wind up in New Jersey too. Your caretaker would answer the door, the years of alcohol abuse have left you unable to care for yourself. I would find you much the same way Dylan found Guthrie, past your prime, and past what many would call useful. Guthrie is Guthrie, I think Dylan would say, and I would say the same for you, Brennan is Brennan.
I wish I could write you a book called “A Song to Brennan,” you could read it in your little house in New Jersey. I wish that you could know that your life touched mine. That somewhere in the midst of your writing, I realized that I had a voice, too. The best I have is to be grateful and marvel at the wonder of a man so supremely grounded in God’s love, and so supremely broken and bested by addiction.
I can’t write you a book right now, but I can say this:
Manning recently released his memoir, All Is Grace. I recommend it. It is brutal and beautiful.