Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saint and Sinner

I couldn't resist a memoir that begins like this.

This book is by the one who thought he'd be farther along by now, but he's not.
It is by the inmate who promised the parole board he'd be good, but he wasn't. 
It is by the dim-eyed who showed the path to others but kept losing his way.
It is by the wet-brained who believed if a little wine is good for the stomach, 
then a lot is great.
It is by the liar, tramp, and thief; otherwise known as the priest, speaker, and author.
It is by the disciple whose cheese slid off his cracker so many times 
he said "to hell with cheese 'n crackers."
It is by the young at heart but old of bone who is led these days
in a way he'd rather not go.
This book is also for the gentle ones who've lived among wolves.
It is for those who've broken free of collar
to romp in fields of love and marriage and divorce.
It is for those who mourn, who've been mourning most of their lives,
yet they hang on to shall be comforted.
It is for those who've dreamed of entertaining angels
but found instead a few friends of great price.
It is for the younger and elder prodigals
who've come to their senses
again, and again, and again, and again.
It is for those who strain at pious piffle
because they've been swallowed by Mercy itself.
This book is for myself and those who have been around
the block enough times that we dare to whisper
the ragamuffin's rumor--
all is grace.

Brennan Manning is now in his 70's and is saint and sinner.  Decades ago I began reading him (e.g. The Ragamuffin Gospel) and his authenticity, his vulnerability, and his reliance on grace have helped me to keep going.  

I was only a few lines into his preface above and was weeping.  I, too, often feel like a disappointment, a hypocrite.  There is often such a gap between who I really am and who I desire to be.  The shame that breeds can be paralyzing.  Brennan depends on grace and has always pointed the rest of us who are wounded and wounding, in need of healing yet healers, to that same grace.

In the intro is contained a poem by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in. 

I was raised to believe that the cracks elicit the darkness of God's judgment.  It has been such a buoyant relief to know that the cracks draw the light of God's grace. 

Teach me, brother Manning, as I read further.


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