You have probably heard someone give a book its highest compliment by saying, "It was a real page-turner," or "It so captivated me, I just couldn't put it down." For me now, the bar of an ultimate book review has been raised even higher. While reading Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, I have had to put the book down and let the weight of what I just read sink in. To put it another way, I pick it up and read some more and have to stop, yet again, to give my soul time to digest what it has just been fed.
For instance, when describing the mortified response of the self-righteous to Jesus' scandalous association with--and grace toward--the marginal, despised, and outcast of religious and social culture of his day, Manning said . . .
It remains a startling story to those who never understand that the men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence.
Going on two years now, I have gazed deeply into the darkness of my imperfect existence. I am a bundle of paradoxes. More and more, I am finding less and less comfort by comparing myself with the paradoxical lives of others. Mine are not the words of a man feeling sorry for himself or doing penance by beating himself down. Instead, so to speak, they are the confessions of an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. . . I am much better than I ever dreamed. I am much worse than my most ghoulish nightmares.
Like no other time I remember, it has become painfully apparent to me that I have lived much of my life sipping from a thimble full of grace. I have availed myself of it, but in carefully measured doses, and there have been instances when I have even less graciously dispensed it with an eyedropper.
What I have needed all along is to stay under the drenching and cleansing cascade of a waterfall of God's Grace, drink from its pure streams, and invite everyone I know to join me.
This hit me profoundly when I realized I had read Ragamuffin Gospel less than three years ago. How had I missed its message? Sadly, at the time, the bright glare from my halo blinded me from seeing the dark clouds just above it.
A gospel hymn comes to mind . . .
There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.