I hear there's wine and it won't run dry. I hear there's wine and it satisfies. I hear it's a better year than this bum's had in his life. I hear there's wine and it won't run dry.
I know my path ain't all that straight, But I'm leanin on some arms that bear this clumsy weight. My heart is light. My tongue is loose. My eyes are not so dry. Pray this drunk makes it home alright.
Those are lyrics I penned only a month ago, both as a prayer over my own wandering soul as well as a tribute to you Brennan, the raging alcoholic, once married then not, ex-priest, who set me on this wayward ragamuffin journey into the endless love of God.
Had you not died on Friday, I might have sent you a copy of the album.
Truth be told, you only taught me one lesson, but oh boy was it a doozy.
"Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity–that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain–that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it. Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be?" –Brennan Manning, All is Grace
"...as you are and not as you should be?"
No Brennan, I didn't. I liked to sulk in my inability to be anything more than a swindler and a self-righteous facade of spirituality. I believed that God was furious with me, every moment of every day. That though He was obligated to love me, beneath the feigned passion, I was His single greatest disappointment, broke down on the side of the freeway, while he prize children flew by at 100mph.
But now Brennan, I think I'm starting to get it. It was painful at first, when you saw past my charades, when you parroted the thoughts deep in my heart, knowing just how to draw me out of my shell. You knew it was all an act of insecurity and shame. But you didn't condemn. Unlike so many I could only hear speaking disappointment, ignoring and unable to receive their love, you mirrored the heart of the father, screaming I LOVE YOU in poetry and narrative until I finally thought it might be true.
God was not furious –He was furiously in love.
My undoing ended and my ability to receive love began with a single paragraph of yours that I read on a bus driving across Siesta Key.
Laugh with me! Death is dead! Fear is no more! There is only life! There is only laughter! If the darkest night is upon you as you read these words, know that the risen Jesus is wild about you even if you can't feel it. Listen beneath your pain for the voice of Abba God. Make ready for my Christ whose smile like lightning, sets free the song of everlasting glory that now sleeps in your paper flesh like dynamite. -Signature of Jesus
After reading those words, I stared at passing by mansions with matching boats worth more than the apartment building I live in. I fought back tears as I hated the idea of crying in front of my classmates, but your words grew in me and left no more room for those tears to stay inside. That was the first moment I began to believe that just maybe, I was beyond lovability and yet loved, actually loved, not out of obligation but with passion. Or as another friend puts it, that was the moment I realized that Jesus thinks I'm the best thing since sliced bread.
So Brennan, thank you. Oh, and enjoy some of that wine as it was meant to be. I hear the Nazareth 33 A.D. is a fantastic year.
In the words of St. Francis, after conversing long with Brother Dominic on the road to Umbria, "Bye. I'll miss you."
-A Fellow Ragamuffin.
You can get your own copy of the album Knowing here.