Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit: A Review of "All Is Grace"

All Is Grace presents the inner life of a present-day desert father—a man, like all desert fathers and mothers, who embodies an unquenchable spiritual hunger. A man who knows his sin, a man whose central prayer is "Lord, have mercy." As someone who has been touched by Brennan's life, and again by his memoir, I can only feel a kind of perverse gratitude for his great and terrible poverty, for the sin of his parents, for the sin of his church, for the cruelties of life that created within Brennan such great desperation for tenderness and love. I thank God for the ancient and holy ruin of a soul that Brennan has been entrusted to carry. Moreover, I thank God for grace, for the yearning for grace that is Brennan Manning.

Yes, this is a memoir of an alcoholic, a disloyal husband, a liar, and cheat: "I've shattered every one of the Ten Commandments six times Tuesday" (even in this confession he exaggerates). As you read Brennan's confessions, you can't help but grieve the pain that he has caused his ex-wife Roslyn, his children, his friends, and all those who looked up to him as a spiritual leader. There is nothing to celebrate in the damage that he details in his writing.

At the same time, I couldn't help but feel deep gratitude for the hurt that Brennan has carried and for his gift of communicating a God of unending compassion. All Is Grace is a simple story of Brennan the wounded sinner. It is also the story of Brennan the grateful lover, Brennan the tender healer.

As another itinerant preacher once said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Fore more conversation on All Is Grace, visit the Patheos Book Club.

10/16/2011 4:00:00 AM