Brennan Manning: Ruthless Trust

Interview of Brennan Manning by Dick Staub

Well, welcome everybody. This is your friendly guide, Dick Staub. Thank you for joining me. Many of you know my father was a pastor, my mother served faithfully at his side. When I was 10 years old my brother was born with severe brain damage, and I remember consciously questioning God and the trustworthiness of God. I remember wondering if I placed my life in God’s hands, he could actually choose to do with me as he’s done with my brother. Well, now 44 years later, we just moved my mother into an Alzheimer’s unit. She’s separated from my father from whom she had never been apart in over 50 years of marriage, and I find myself, 44 years later, dealing with some of the same issues in my relationship with God that I dealt with when I was 10 years old. You know, if you’re honest, there’s something in your own life that makes trusting God a challenge. And yet our next guest rightly says that trust is the way for, as he calls us, the ragamuffins. He is Brennan Manning, author of a number of wonderful books including The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Wisdom of Tenderness, and a book that we’re going to talk about during this hour, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God.

Q. Thank you for joining us, Brennan.
A. Oh, delighted to be with you, Dick.

Q. You know, let’s talk just for a minute about the whole phrase, ragamuffin.
It’s a phrase that a lot of people understand completely because they’ve read your stuff, but maybe somebody hasn’t. Let’s find out what a ragamuffin is.
A. Well, there’s a beautiful scene in the Old Testament about the Anaweem and
They, in the eighth century, they’re the poor, the homeless, landless, and God will one day restore their prosperity.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. But in the sixth century the Anaweem took on a tremendous-a meaning of
tremendous spiritual death. The Anaweem were the poor in spirit who had an unwavering trust in God.

Q. Hm.
A. And committed themselves entirely to doing his will. Now, when the
Anaweem theme comes into the New Testament, the Anaweem are those who gather to meet Jesus at his birth. And who are they? They’re the poor ones, the nobodies, the people on the margin of respectability. They’re the shepherds.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. There’s Anna, this old lady at 84 years old. There’s Simeon, an old man.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. And, of course, you know there’s all these animals. And then, of course,
there’s the Virgin Mary who was considered the last and lowliest in a long line.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. Well, the ragamuffins of the New Testament simply–and that’s a metaphor
for the Anaweem, those are the ones who are truly poor in spirit–acknowledge their utter dependence on God even for their next breath
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand have just cast their lot with Jesus and surrendered to the Father’s will.
And that’s basically what a ragamuffin is.
Q. Now, in this book you talk about ruthless trust. And it starts with a-with a
spiritual director saying, Brennan, you don’t need anymore insights into the faith, you’ve got enough insights to last you 300 years. The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received. I mean, what is the-the premise of this book about trust?
A. The basic idea is in one sentence: The splendor of a human heart that trusts
and is loved unconditionally, “gives God more pleasure than Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom. Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it.”
Q. You talk about one of your best and most brilliant students, Augustus Gordon,
who is-is living a life of faith, preaching the gospel on behalf of Food for the Poor. You asked him to summarize the Christian life in one sentence and he did it.
A. And he didn’t blink. He said I can summarize it in one word: trust.
Q. You know, you talk about your own, the beginning of your own-your own
journey and-and refer to it as being ambushed. And-and yet you-you reflect something that all of us who have had that encounter with Jesus remember is the-the complete childlike trust. It’s what Jesus said we need to bring into the relationship.
A. Yes. I-I would just reaffirm that, that childlike surrender and trust, I believe,
is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship. And I’d add that the supreme need in most of our lives is often the most overlooked, and that is an unfaltering trust in the love of God, no matter what goes down.
Q. Yeah. You talk about speaking at Stanford. A student and a professor both
confessed that they’ve lost that simplicity of trust. And you-you end that chapter with a really wonderful observation about Henri Nouwen and a shift in his own writing in the use of the word faith and trust. What did you see in Nouwen, and why is it significant for our understanding of the essential nature of trust?
A. I believe what Nouwen, the point he came to, was that faith in the person of
Jesus and hope in his promise–not only for eternal life to come, but also hope in the presence of Jesus in the here and now–I think is what Paul caught when he wrote in Phillipians 4:13, “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the one that gives me strength.”
Q. Uh-huh.
A. And I think Nouwen came to the place where he saw it¢â‚¬¦ Put faith in the
person of Jesus and hope in his promise together and you’ve got Biblical trust.
Q. Hm. You-you have a wonderful way of-of evaluating whether you’re living by
trust, whether other people are living by trust. You say, if I-if I interviewed 10 people and asked them, do you trust God, and nine answered yes, you could find out which ones are telling you the truth by observing the degree to which they’re grateful. I mean, how-how is gratefulness related to-to trust in God?
A. Well, first I’d say that the dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life
is the gratitude that flows from trust.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. And gratitude, not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude
for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.
Q. Hm.
A. I’d also add that Biblical trust is grows out of love. Just for example, Dick,
suppose I said I need a ride everyday at noon to get to this clinic.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. And I said, could you take me? And you said, yes. Well then, next day
you’re 10 minutes late and I’m anxious and wonder if you forgot, and so on and so forth. But then you pick me up 10 minutes late and you say, gee, I got in this huge traffic jam and I’m really sorry. Well then, over the next few months everyday you show up precisely at noon.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. My trust in you is rooted in your performance, and my trust in God flows out
of the experience of his loving me.
Q. Hm.
A. Day in and day out, whether the day is stormy or fair, whether I’m sick or in
good health, whether I’m in a state of grace or disgrace.
Q. Yeah, absolutely.
A. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am. And out of that
experience–and I insist that experience is absolutely indispensable–
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œthat’s where trust comes from. And out of trust comes¢â‚¬¦ I become so
grateful for God’s abiding presence within. In fact, I’ve just read a line in the scripture this morning. It said, John 17:26, and Jesus says, “Father, I have made your name known. I continue to make it known. And I pray that the same love with which you love me may be in them and I in them.” The very same love that the Abba has for Jesus
Q. Hm.
A. ¢€œis the same love he has for us when he’s in our hearts. The problem is most
of us aren’t aware of it.
We’re going to pick up there when we come back. If you’re just joining
us, we’re talking with Brennan Manning about his book, Ruthless Trust. We’ll be right back. Don’t go away.
(Break.)
Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re talking with Brennan Manning about Ruthless Trust. Trust is at the heart of being a ragamuffin. It’s the path to God.
Q. We’ve been talking about gratefulness and gratitude as an expression of that-
that trust-trusting relationship. Brennan was just talking about reading in the gospel of John today about the love that God has for the disciples is the same love he has for us, but we don’t¢â‚¬¦ We’re not always aware of it. And that-that goes to another point that you talk about in this chapter, attentiveness. Now, go ahead and finish up on that thought.
A. I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between
conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists/charismatics, nor between republican and democrats, the real difference is between the aware and the unaware.
Q. Yeah.
A. You show me the person who goes to the mall on a Saturday afternoon with a lively conscious awareness of the overwhelming love of God
Q. Yes.
A. ¢€œdwelling aright within them.
Q. Yes.
A. And the unaware who go to church on Sunday and kind of get their ticket punched and have no sense of God for the entire week. They’re utterly unaware of the indwelling presence.
Q. Yeah, absolutely.
A. Now, when somebody is aware of that love, the same love that the Father has for Jesus, that person is just spontaneous gratitude. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy.
Q. Yes.
A. We’re not joyful and then become grateful, we’re grateful and that makes us joyful.
Q. You-you have this statement about the church today and our, “failure to slake the thirst of seekers and believers alike–those who reject the dignified, businesslike, Rotary Club deity we chatter about on Sunday morning and search for a God worthy of awe, silent reverence, total commitment, and whole-hearted trust.” You-you have this wonderful thing about the-about beholding God as-as part of the function of trust. And you-you tie it around this-the Hebrew word, kabod.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. Talk about what that is and why-why it is so important for us to really get a grasp on how absolutely trustworthy this God is.
A. Well, the divine kabod, is another word for the it’s the Hebrew word for the glory
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œof God. And, you know, recently these astronomers discovered a star, Upsilon Andromedae, that it’s bright enough to see with the naked eye, and it’s located 264 trillion miles from earth. And that distance boggles the mind. It bends the imagination, and beggars speech. And to be aware that the God who made that star and, of course, our galaxy is one of at least 100 million galaxies out there
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. ¢€œthat that same God would come and dwell within me. See, this is what I mean. My understanding of the Biblical meaning of fear of the Lord is this: Sound wonder, radical amazement, and affectionate awe–
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œat the infinite goodness of God.
Q. Yep. You know what’s interesting is-is I’d interviewed Donald McCullough, who wrote The Trivialization of God, and you make reference to him.
A. Yes.
Q. One of the problems that we have in American Christianity today is that we understand a lot of this conceptually, but we don’t understand it experientially. As a matter of fact, you talk in this book about trusting Jesus in the western world, what we think about knowing as an intellectual exercise, so we can know that we’ve trivialized God. We can¢â‚¬¦ We put him in, you know, the J. B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small, but-but in terms of actually experiencing God, which is the Hebrew understanding of-of somebody who knows, we are sorely lacking in that in so much of the American Christian experience. And without that sense of awe for God, it’s no wonder the people are inattentive to gratefulness. I mean, actually, we end up thinking we’ve produced the stuff of our day instead of as seeing everything in our day as a gift from God.
A. Well, my-my feeling is this, that to maintain and sustain the awareness of God’s loving presence, the awareness that right this moment as we’re talking, that each of us are being seen with a gaze of infinite tenderness.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. I think the reason that so many of us Christians don’t are not aware of that is because we decide the price is too high and the cost, of course, is silence and solitude where we just show up, shut up, and our prayer becomes primarily listening.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. In the evangelical world I find that prayer is mostly all speaking, no listening.
Q. Yeah.
A. It’s too much head and not enough heart.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. You know, read a passage from scripture, reflect a moment, and the grocery list ascends to intercede for, you pray for, and then maybe they’ll let us pray out the door.
Q. Right.
A. But there’s no time to listen to what God is saying.
Q. Right.
A. And it’s-it’s an ancient tradition that God gives himself to you completely only in silence and in solitude.
Q. Yes. It’s¢â‚¬¦ You know, we could stop and-and develop any number of these themes because they are all integrated when we think about the issue of-of ruthless trust. You have tucked away between the issue of gratefulness and beholding God, a chapter that you describe as “The Enormous Difficulty.” And you talk about the trinity of pain and suffering and people who have inadequate and wrong-headed views of God in the first place. You talk very personally about-about the impact of-of Rich Mullins’ death on-on your own spirit and heart and-and the fact that we, if we’re truly going to learn to trust God, we have to face this kind of stuff head-on. We can’t avoid the holocaust, we can’t avoid the personal suffering. I can’t avoid the fact that my mother has Alzheimer’s and my brother has brain damage. We have to develop an understanding and a beholding of God in the midst of all of that stuff.
A. Yes. And, of course, in that same chapter, I talk about my own collapse into alcoholism.
Q. Yeah.
A. And when I was outside an alcohol and drug rehab center here in New Orleans, the F. Edward Hebert hospital, and I was clutching a pint of Taaka vodka, and what I did not want was the lifesaving treatment of detox in a 28-day program.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. I kept on drinking and here I am, obvious drunken child crying out, Jesus, where are you? And how do we experience trust in the midst of pain, suffering, heartache, and throbbing despair? I mean, is it possible to endure and eventually move beyond the bleak and melancholy landscape of evil and destruction? And again, back to the experience of God as unconditional love. As a God who loves me beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity, who loves me in the morning sun and the evening rain, without caution and regret, boundary, limit, breaking point, no matter what’s gone down, he can’t stop loving me. That’s the problem I ask Christians. Do you trust that God loves you? Everybody says, oh yes, I’ve known that for a long time. Then just watch the way they live. There’s so much fear, so much anxiety, and so much self-hatred. The best definition of faith I ever heard was Paul Tillich when he said, “Faith is the courage to accept acceptance.”
Q. Absolutely.
A. Meaning? Faith is a code to accept that Jesus knows my whole life story, every skeleton in my closet, every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty, degradedness darkening my past. Right now he knows my shallow faith, my feeble prayer life, my inconsistent discipleship, and he comes beside me and he says, I dare you to trust.
Q. Wow.
A. I dare you to trust that I love you, just as you are and not as you should be, because you’re never going to be as you should be.
Q. Absolutely.
I’ll tell you what. We’re going to pick up there when we come back. If you’re just joining us, we’re talking with Brennan Manning. The book is Ruthless Trust. It’s one of the must-reads on this year’s list. Published by HarperSanFrancisco. We’ll be right back.
(Break.)
Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re talking about Ruthless Trust and-and Brennan Manning is our guest. The book is Ruthless Trust, published by HarperSanFrancisco.
Q. And a couple of things happened right at the end of that last little part of our
discussion. One thing was Brennan talked about his battle with alcoholism and sitting in front of a rehab center. And then he talked about the fact that he always asks Christians– or often asks them–do you believe that God loves you? And we all say yes, but then he says, but watch how we live. And-and believing that God loves us absolutely the way we are, not the way we should be or ought to be is so important. And as a matter of fact, that was one of the, for me, one of the most important elements of-of-of the conversations that you have in this particular book because you talk about the great weakness in the North American church at large. And-and you say–even in your life–is our refusal to accept our brokenness. We seem to somehow want to-want to believe that we are adequate and-and God is not, and that, you know, when in fact we are broken and God is adequate.
A. Right on.
Q. There’s a lack of honesty. Why are we afraid that God won’t love us as we
are?
A. I’m¢â‚¬¦ My sense is this, Dick, that if I let the love of God run wild in my
life
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œwhat is he going to demand of me? Is he going to send me to¢â‚¬¦ Is he going
to say I’ve got to spend 10 years in Calcutta with Mother Teresa’s missionaries?
Q. Yeah.
A. Is he going to give me cancer?
Q. Uh-huh.
A. Is he going to tell me I’ve got to leave my spouse and just go live in a cave for
him alone? All these crazy fears–
Q. Yeah.
A. –that have nothing to do with the real God who just wants as he¢â‚¬¦ The Lord
takes delight in his people. Just to let God¢â‚¬¦ See, to me it’s more important to be loved than to love. When I have not had the experience of being loved by God, just as I am and not as I should be, then loving others becomes a duty, a responsibility, a chore.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. Eventually it’s the burnout when I’m overextended and under appreciated.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. But if I let myself be loved as I am, and the Holy Spirit poured into our
hearts–the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit–then I can reach out to others in a more effortless way and it’s certainly not a burden to love somebody else. And-and the simple truth is Christianity is all about loving. I mean, you take it or leave it. It’s not about washup or morality, accept it insofar as washup morality are expressions of love that goes with them both. So the ruthless trust in God’s love is born of the experience of letting myself be loved. Kind of just rolling around in it, letting God embrace me. Letting him tell me not only that he loves me, but how much he likes me. I think I have a story about a man in Detroit, Ed Fal (phonetic). He goes on this two week summer vacation in Ireland.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. And the reason is his favorite uncle is celebrating his 80th birthday. Well, on
the morning of the great day, Ed and his uncle get up before dawn, they get dressed in darkness and silence, they go for a walk on the shores of Lake Killarney. Just as the sun is about to rise, his uncle turns his face straight at the rising sun. Not knowing what to do, they stand beside him shoulder to shoulder, 24 minutes, not a word exchanged, and then his uncle, his 80 year old uncle goes skipping down the road, he’s beaming, radiant. He finally catches up to him and he says, Uncle Shamus, you look happy. He says, I am, lad. Do you want to tell me why? Yes, you see–and the tears just washed down the old man’s face–you see, the Father is very fond of me. Oh, me father is so very fond of me. If I asked a listener right now, do you really believe God likes you, not loves you–because theologically God has to love you, God’s love has been a necessity of nature, that the eternal interjection of love, God seeks to be God–if I asked you, do you really believe he likes you, and with gut level honesty you can reply, oh yes, the father is very fond of me, there would come a relaxedness, a serenity, a compassionate attitude towards yourself and your brokenness and you wouldn’t have to go out and buy my latest book, The Wisdom of Tenderness, as you’re already living it.
Q. When you-you tell the story about a spiritual director who-who used an
analogy of a crab, and basically taking off your shell and allowing yourself to stand before God exactly as you are. And it was in the context of you having an international reputation. And-and he was saying that could get in the way of your encounter with God. Most of us have some sort of shell that gets in the way of our encounter with God. What’s involved in taking off that shell and getting to the place where we realize that our father is delighted in us and likes us and loves us as we are?
A. Well, the first thing is to stop identifying myself with my role.
Q. Yeah.
A. And just in contemplative prayer¢â‚¬¦ Contemplative is simply returning to
your naked, poor self before you ever accomplished anything in life, before you ever failed in life. It’s just that simple, unadorned I, that nothing I can do can increase God’s love for me and nothing I can do can diminish it.
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. So in the simple act of shedding your role of realizing I don’t live up to others
expectations of me or my expectations of me, that I don’t have to identify with my image as a spiritual leader or a writer of books or a preacher of the gospel, just as I am in my utter radical dependence on God for my next breath.
Q. Yeah.
A. That’s what the ragamuffin does. The ragamuffin is never anyone but himself
or herself.
Q. Yeah, which is really hard to do in today’s culture, and I would say
particularly hard to do in today’s church. I mean, church is a place where people often get dressed up and they go and they put on their happy face and we all act like we’ve got our act together. It’s back to what you said about the North American church, the cosmetic case that we put on our virtuous faith, you say. Whereas the church is supposed to be more like the celebration of the crabs who have just taken off their shell.
A. Yes. I am so convinced of that, that if I present to God a self that is caught up
in my image, in my reputation, in my, you know, all my good works, God doesn’t know that person.
Q. Who’s this stranger?
A. That person doesn’t exist in the mind of God.
Q. Yeah.
A. That’s the wacky part of the whole deal.
Q. Is it the person that God knows and loves is the person that we don’t want
anybody else to know.
A. That’s it. Are you familiar with the poet E.E. Cummings?
Q. Oh, sure.
A. Well, he has a-this word to be nobody but yourself in the world which is doing
its best day and night to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.
Q. Yep.
A. To be nobody but yourself.
Q. Yep.
A. Boy. And of course the fear is, if you ever get to know the real me, you’re not
going to like me.
I’ll tell you what. We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be back with
more of Brennan Manning. And let me mention, we’re talking about the book, Ruthless Trust. But a lot of the ideas that we’re talking about are expanded more fully in The Wisdom of Tenderness, as well, which is-is a treatment that Brennan Manning does of-of God’s love for us. And you’ve got to read both of these, Ruthless Trust and Wisdom of Tenderness. We’ll be back with more of Brennan Manning coming up right after this. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back.
(Break.)
Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Brennan Manning. He’s the author of Ruthless Trust, The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Wisdom of Tenderness, and a number of other books that are well worth your time.
Q. We’ve been focusing on Ruthless Trust, and we’ve also been dealing with a lot
of issues from The Wisdom of Tenderness. We talked a bit about-about the difficulties, the enormous difficulties of-of trusting God when things happen that-that seem to us inconsistent with a trust for God. And you mentioned Rich Mullins. I-I’m fond of the-the image of the body of Christ and-and different people playing different roles, and I-and I often ask artists what role they play in the body of Christ. And-and Michael Card talks about being a teacher and-and Steven Green talked about being an evangelist. I’ll never forget Rich Mullins’ answer, which means even more to me now that I’ve read Ruthless Trust, because Rich Mullins thought about it for just a minute and then he looked up and says, well, I guess I’m the clown in the body of Christ. And, of course, you make reference to-to-to the tradition from which he-he drew the idea of a-of-of the clown, and because that was from Saint Francis who-who, as Rich and I were talking about, you know, his decision to try to take some vows. He said, I’m not that good with money anyway, so I’m taking a vow of poverty, and I’m not getting very many dates, so I’m going to take a vow of chastity. He-he-he talked quite openly about his own journey in that. But you have a wonderful chapter in-in Ruthless Trust about artists, mystics, and clowns. And you basically make the point that theology is too vital to be consigned solely to theologians. Talk about the importance of artists and mystics and clowns in helping us understand how to behold God in everyday life.
A. Yeah. The clowns, especially, you know Francis often saw himself, he was
often standing on his head to see the world upside down.
Q. Yeah.
A. And he saw it as God with the strings holding up the planet earth. And of
course if he ever let go, you know, we’d be in deep kaka.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. But clowns are¢â‚¬¦ They let God out of the box of our predetermined propriety.
They’re instruments of grace saying to us, lighten up, you ragamuffin. They’re somersaults, they’re backflips, they’re unpredictable hijinks, tinker with our straight-laced logic, which alleges that ultimate significance can be found only in the tangible, divisible person. And when you look at a clown, the outrageous costumes, you see their light-hearted whimsical stance toward life and suddenly, I mean¢â‚¬¦ Stop and see a clown in the street. They-they start to giggle, as my pathetic obsession with, you know, becoming a spiritual giant of writing a book the equivalent, you know, of, oh, say, Joseph Conrad’s.
Q. Uh-huh.
A. And, you know, if you’re in traffic or you’re walking along Wall Street in
New York City, or you’re in a long line at the supermarket, the sudden, unexpected presence of a clown encourages us to reexamine our priorities and he does so with far greater impact-effect than the apocalyptic threats of the doomsday preacher that’s on the street corner.
Q. When you-when you close off the book Ruthless Trust, you talk about some
examples of how that works in life. And-and you start with the story of John Tauler, who had been seeking and-and praying for eight years that God would send him a person to teach him the way to perfection.
A. Yeah. And so when he’s praying he hears a voice saying go outside of
the steps of the church and so he does. And he finds this barefoot ragamuffin in rags, he’s wounded, caked in blood, and Tauler greets the guy cordially. He says, good morning, dear brethren, may God give you a good day and a happy life. And the ragamuffin says, sir, I don’t remember ever having a bad day. And Tauler is stunned. That’s impossible because sadness and grief are just an essential part of the human condition. And the beggar says, you see whether my stomach is full or I am famished with hunger, I praise. When I’m rebuffed and despised, I still thank God. My trust in God’s providence and his plan for my life is absolute, so there’s no such thing as a bad day. But the key thing is he goes on to say, my experience of the love of God has taught me that whatever he does must of necessity be good.
Q. Wow.
A. So everything I receive from his hand, whether it’s mis-received from the
hand of others, be it prosperity or adversity, sweet or bitter, I accept with joy as a sign of his favor. And the last thing he says, that I love, he said, I have discovered that the will of God is the love of God.
Q. Wow.
A. Just a word about the word, ruthless. That sounds like a funny thing, Ruthless
Trust.
Q. Yeah.
A. And the dictionary defines ruthless as, without pity. In the context I’m using
It, it’s without self-pity.
Q. Yeah. And that self-pity issue is a big issue in-in-in your life and a lot of our
lives.
A. Yeah. And as I go on in the book to say, self-pity is the first normal
unavoidable reaction. And I think we just waste our time trying to-trying to suppress it. I’ve found there’s no effective way to suppress self-pity. But there comes a time when it threatens to become malignant and can seduce us into self-destructive patterns like withdrawal, isolation, drinking, drugs, and so forth. And then we simply beg God for the grace to set a time limit on our self-pity.
Q. Yeah.
A. I think the most striking example to me of Ruthless Trust is this 82 year old
Man. And he’s in a convalescent home in Ireland. And he’s lost his wife and his three children in an automobile accident. And he’s on his knees, tears of gratitude streaming down his face, gratitude for the love of God, for this little ragamuffin, who couldn’t earn it, couldn’t deserve it, didn’t win it, totally unmerited favor of the love of God. I mean, I can see that guy as vividly right now and he’s lost so much here he is in a home. And every time he prays he just feels the absence of God rather than the presence. That hell of no feeling that started 18 years ago when his wife and three kids died in the car wreck. And these tears of gratitude streaming down his face. Holy Christmas. That is Ruthless Trust where, you know, the poet said that the last illusion we must let go of is the desire to feel loved. And there’s a monk up in the Genessee Abbey. He’s been there 30 years. And a visitor asked him, do you still feel as close to God as you did when you went in 30 years ago? And the monk’s glorious answer was, no, but now it doesn’t matter. He was so freed from the need to feel loved
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œthat he could indiscriminately accept consolation or desolation, God’s
presence or God’s absence, as one in the same thing.

Q. Hm.
A. And just base his spiritual life in feeling. I mean, man, with the rise and fall
of my fragile feelings, thank God that the presence of God within me doesn’t depend on my fickle feelings, or I’d be in deep kaka.

Q. And on that note, deep kaka, we end our time with Brennan Manning.
But you can spend more time with him, folks. This book concludes with
saying, “It may mean more to Jesus when we say, ¢â‚¬ËœI trust you,’ than when we say, ¢â‚¬ËœI love you.'” Pick up a copy of Ruthless Trust, and I would recommend The Wisdom of Tenderness. And read them as companion volumes on your journey. They’ll be well worth the time and effort as we seek to make our way towards God. We’ll be back with more coming up right after this. Don’t go away.

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