ManRuth 06-7-112   


The Ragamuffin’s Path to God


Brennan Manning

HarperSanFrancisco, 2000, 190 pp.  ISBN 0-06-251709-0


Manning leads spiritual retreats in the U.S. and Europe.  He is the author of ten books, including The Ragamuffin Gospel.  Manning had a tough childhood and grew up with powerful feelings of self-hatred.  This book is largely about trusting— “perseverance in the life-long quest for greater intimacy with Jesus”—and accepting yourself as an object of his love. 


“You’ve got enough insights to last you three hundred years.  The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received.”  (challenge to the author)  “The challenge to actually trust God forced me to deconstruct what I had spent my life constructing, to stop clutching what I was so afraid of losing….” (1)


“Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it.” (2)


“Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic” (3) “It requires heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us.” (4)


“…childlike surrender in trust is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship.” (4)


“Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father’s active goodness and unrestricted love.” (6)


“…this kind of trust is acquired only gradually and most often through a series of crises and trials.”  “…trust must be purified in the crucible of trial.” (9)


“Into your heart I entrust my heart, feeble, distracted, insecure, uncertain.  Abba, unto you I abandon myself in Jesus our Lord.  Amen.” (11-12)


“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future.  The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment.” (12)


“The biggest obstacle on my journey of trust has been an oppressive sense of insecurity, inadequacy, inferiority, and low self-esteem.” (13)


“In order to grow in trust, we must allow God to see us and love us precisely as we are.  The best way to do that is through prayer.” (16)


“While the gravity of sin is not to be minimized, wasting time deploring the past keeps God at a distance.”  “Stop harping on your sins and pray for righteousness.” (quoting Hermas, 20)


“…God’s goodness goes deeper than all pleasure and pain—it embraces them both.” (22)


“The person with an abiding spirit of gratitude is the one who trusts God.” (24)


“The root of joy is gratefulness….  It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” (quoting David Steindl-Rast)  “The theocentric character of gratitude is anchored in trust that there is Someone to thank.”  (33)


“The antithesis of giving thanks is grumbling.  The grumblers live in a state of self-induced stress.” (35)


“The ubiquitous presence of pain and suffering—unwanted, apparently undeserved, and not amenable to explanation or remedy—poses an enormous obstacle to unfailing trust in the infinite goodness of God.” (39)


“…Isaiah speaks of the mysterious figure of the Suffering Servant, who ‘though despised and rejected of men’ and brutally savaged has nonetheless ‘borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’ and thereby triumphed.  The Christian scriptures speak of the cross and testify that God can draw good out of the most heinous evil.” (41) Hope in the resurrection promise stands firm and unassailable.  (42)


“Anyone God uses significantly is always deeply wounded.”  “On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.” (48)


“The crux of the beholding experience lies in the contemplation of the kabod (the Hebrew word for glory) of the Lord.” (49)  “When Victor Hugo described God as ‘a divine and terrible radiance…’ [he meant] a degree of unbearable intensity.”  “God is not a kindly old uncle, he is an earthquake.” (52)  “It is beyond our ken to withstand the unbearable intensity of God’s holiness, power, and grandeur.” (53)


“Jesus is the power and wisdom and holiness of God Almighty. ‘In him all things were created in heaven and earth’ (Col. 1:6).” (54)  “Jesus Christ will always be a scandal to the murky, immodest theory-making of the intelligentsia, because he cannot be comprehended by the rational, scientific, and finite mind.” (55)


“Mystery is an embarrassment to the modern mind.”  “But to avoid mystery is to avoid the only God worthy of worship, honor, and praise.” (57)


“The effects of ‘beholding God’—that is, contemplating the glory of the Lord—are profound and far-reaching.” Appreciating the grandeur of divine Reality “begets an Isaiah-like spirit of speechless humility and breathless amazement at the overpowering splendor of God.”  “…human language breaks down in the attempt to convey what can be grasped only in a nonrational, intuitive way.”  “To adore is to recognize the unfathomable greatness of God and the nothingness of the adorer.”  “Distorted images and caricatures of God as vengeful, whimsical, fickle, and punitive…are exposed for what they are—puny and pathetic human constructs.” (62-3)


“A fleeting, incomplete glimpse of God’s back—the obscure yet real, penetrating, and transforming experience of incomparable glory—awakens a dormant trust.” (65)


“Disregard of God’s immanence deprives us of any sense of intimate belonging, while inattention to his transcendence robs God of his godliness.” (82)


“Faith arises from the personal experience of Jesus as Lord.  Hope is reliance on the promise of Jesus, accompanied by the expectation of fulfillment.  Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.”  “Faith + hope = trust.”(86)


“In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, knowledge is felt; it arises from an experience of God in faith and love rather than from human investigation.” “Experience is an essential part of knowing Jesus….”   (87)


“…all of our prevailing images and understandings of God must crumble in the earthquake of Jesus’ self-disclosure.”   “No matter how much he is like us…Jesus is also altogether different from us.  …he is divine, totally Other….”  “The full experience of Jesus is an encounter with him on both the divine and human levels of existence….” (88, 89)


“The basic element seems to be recognition.”  “We recognize that this person gives life meaning.” (89, quoting John McKenzie)


“Like faith and hope, trust cannot be self-generated.  I cannot simply will myself to trust.”  “What does lie within my power is paying attention to the faithfulness of Jesus.” (96, 97)


“We are made for that which is too big for us.  We are made for God, and nothing less will ever satisfy us.” (103)


“Accepting no substitutes for what we really want leads to simplicity of life.” (103)


“There can be no faith without doubt, no hope without anxiety, and no trust without worry.  These shadow us from dawn to dusk….”  “…they are no cause for alarm, because they are not voluntary.”  (104-5)


“…perseverance in the life-long quest for greater intimacy with Jesus, no matter how often we stumble and fall, is not only the antidote to hopelessness and despair; it is the sure path to divine certitude that overcomes all doubts, anxieties, and worries.” (105)


“What we have failed to learn is that clarity, reassurance, and proof cannot create trust, sustain it, or guarantee any certainty of its presence.” (113)


“Deciding what I most need out of life, carefully calculating my next move, and generally allowing my autonomous self to run amuck inflates my sense of self-importance and reduces the God of my incredible journey to the role of spectator on the sidelines.”  “One of the most arduous spiritual tasks is that of giving up control and allowing the Spirit of God to lead our lives.” (115, quoting Henri Nouwen)


“On the other hand, presumption is such an insidious perversion that trust is not merely tainted but corrupted by it.  In presumption, we assign to God the task of doing for us what we should be doing for ourselves.” (115)


“Trust in God does not presume that God will intervene.” (117, quoting John Shea)  “Often trust begins on the far side of despair.  When all human resources are exhausted, when the craving for reassurances is stifled, when we forgo control….” (117)


“On the contrary, a poor self-image reveals a lack of humility.  Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, inferiority, and self-hatred rivet our attention on ourselves.  Humble men and women do not have a low opinion of themselves; they have no opinion of themselves, because they rarely think about themselves.  The heart of humility lies in undivided attention to God….” (120)  “Humble people are without pretense, free from any sense of spiritual superiority, and liberated from the need to be associated with persons of importance.”  “Neither overly sensitive to criticism nor inflated by praise, they recognize their brokenness, acknowledge their gifts, and refuse to take themselves seriously.”  “A truly humble man does not fear being exposed.” (121)


“I had adopted a second addiction: ministry.  The attention and recognition that come from writing and preaching, teaching and counseling, had become my latest drug of choice.  Even my relationship with God was predicated on my ministerial identity.”  I was placing my security in my resume. (123)


“Unable to accept our brokenness, we wear a thousand masks to disguise the face of fear.” (124)


“His [Jesus’] single-minded orientation toward his Father freed him from self-consciousness.” (125)


“Entrusting ourselves to Mystery, we move forward fearlessly, knowing that the future of the planet probably does not depend on what we do next.” (141)


“Trust yourself as one entrusted by God with everything you need to live life to the full.” (145)  “Trust Jesus, trust the love in your heart, and trust the Word just spoken to you.”  (147)


“Petulant preachers inspire incredible self-harshness.  We would not inflict on our dog the abuse we heap on ourselves.” (155) [This is a theme with Manning.  Having suffered so much from self-hatred, he is extremely sensitive to things which induce such feelings.  Avoid being harsh with yourself and others.  Trust God and accept yourself. dlm]


Ruthless means “without pity.”  Ruthless Trust means trust without self-pity, “because self-pity is the arch-enemy of trust.”  “There comes a time when self-pity becomes malignant, seducing us into self-destructive behavioral patterns….  We simply ask for the grace to set a time limit on our self-pity.” (164)


“The way of ruthless trust…gives definition to our lives, reveals what is life-giving within us, shapes the decisions we make and the words we speak, prods our consciousness, nurtures our spirit, impacts our interaction with others, sustains our will-to-meaning in life, and gives flesh and bone to our way of being in the world.”  (166)


“Faith in the person of Jesus and hope in his promise means that his voice, echoing and alive in the Gospels, has supreme and sovereign authority over our lives.” (166)


“Our culture says that ruthless competition is the key to success.  Jesus says that ruthless compassion is the purpose of our journey.” (169)


“…ruthless trust is the courageous confidence that despite suffering and evil, terrorism and domestic conflict, God’s plan in Jesus Christ cannot fail.” (176)


“Search your heart for the Isaac in your life—name it and then place it on the altar as an offering to the Lord—and you will know the meaning of Abrahamic trust.” (177)


“Trust happens!  You will trust him to the degree that you know you are loved by him.”  “Ruthless trust ultimately comes down to this: faith in the person of Jesus and hope in his promise.” (178)


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