All is Grace
When I saw the cover and the title of my husband's latest book (reviewed by him here), I knew I had to read it. All is Grace by Brennan Manning is ostensibly a biography, but really it's a confessional.
Manning was a well-known Christian speaker whose key message was this: "God loves you as you are, not as you should be." His message of God's grace profoundly changed many lives. He constantly talked of the grace of God, forgiveness, freedom and love. And yet after every speaking engagement, Manning went on a bender and drank himself into oblivion.
He tried to hide his alcoholism, but his wife couldn't live with it and divorce was inevitable. Friends tried to talk to him, he went to rehab, but he was never able to be free of his need for the bottle. In his own words, he was a liar, as all alcoholics are. To his shame he missed his own mother's funeral because he got drunk in a hotel room.
Now, as a sick old man, Manning holds on to the truth that even though he couldn't hold it together, all is grace. God's grace is still enough for him, an alcoholic who failed his way through life and relationships.
As well as being beautifully written, this book was a challenge for me. Yes, I hold to the message that God loves me and his grace through Christ has saved me. And yet I would have had a great deal of trouble relating to Manning if I'd known about his benders and his alcoholic destructive behaviours.
"He ought to sort that out," I would have said, if I had known him. "He should get himself into rehab and not get out until he's doing better. He should quit his speaking and stop his ministry. He should this, he should that."
You see, I'm all for fixing stuff up. Doing better, being better, trying harder, whatever. I talk about God's grace and yet I still have an invisible line that I draw that says, "You've got to be this good, regardless of God's grace."
In one way, it's very apt that Manning struggled with a problem bigger than himself and bigger than his own efforts. His message was all about grace. His life was a demonstration of God's grace. He needed to have something in his life that said, "I, especially, need this." My invisible line is irrelevant. None of us are good enough. All is grace.
Because I, too, need to remember that because of Christ, God loves me as I am, not as I should be, I recommend this book.