Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thoughts on "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning, Part 1

I read "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning today.  It's the first book of his that I have read, and I plan on reading "The Ragamuffin Gospel" now.  Overall, I liked it.  It wasn't as earth-shattering as I had hoped, but I don't fault Mr. Manning for that.  Just my own state of mind.

I appreciate his many descriptions of the love of God and just how wide and deep and completely immeasurable it is.  Conveniently he left out any mention of hell, which is frustrating since that's the one kink in my pursuit to understanding and accepting the love of God.  (God is love.  Yep, got that.  God is all-powerful.  Sure, I'm with you.  Those who don't believe in Jesus suffer in hell for all eternity.  Screeeech... this bus comes to a halt.)  I'm still struggling and thinking through the issue of hell.  Mr. Manning ignores it all together.  I'm sure he's thought about it lots, but I wish he would have shared his conclusions amidst all the love talk.  For now, it's a hurdle I can't get over.

My other frustration is that the first part of the book did a wonderful job of easing the guilt of trying to live a perfect Christian life.  Best line of the book-- "... I've decided that if I had my life to live over again I would not only climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets; I wouldn't only jettison my hot water bottle, raincoat, umbrella, parachute, and raft; I would not only go barefoot earlier in the spring and stay out later in the fall; but I would devote not one more minute to monitoring my spiritual growth. No, not one" (p. 65).  Ah, that was reassuring.  But at the end he emphasizes how important it is for Christians to love other people.  Obviously this is true and right.  But I started the book feeling relief from guilt only to end with feelings of guilt for not loving enough.  Love obviously requires some work and action, and so I'm back to counting and making sure I'm doing "enough."  Again, not Mr. Manning's fault.  Just my own.

I think I have trouble with books like this because I've spent so much energy reacting against emotionalism and sentimentality in my own life.  My emotions can be a fickle roller coaster, and I used to use them as a measure for "where I was in my relationship with God."  I know better now, and so I tend to not trust my emotions, lest I mistake them for the voice of God.  Mr. Manning isn't calling us to emotionalism, but he does refer to mysticism and the experience of God.  This by its very nature seems to be a deeply emotional experience.  I start to doubt whether I've actually "experienced" God in this way.  Maybe I did once, at campfire sing-a-longs and church altar calls, back before anti-depressants and periods of agnosticism.  I don't know.  I suppose I could work myself up for such an experience, but it would inevitably let me down if it's not genuinely from God.  

More thoughts to come.

No comments: