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The Rabbi's Heartbeat
By Brennan Manning
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2003 Brennan Manning
All right reserved.
"Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ." Thomas Merton
"Living out of the false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us." B. Manning
Adam and Eve hid, and we all have used them as role models. God calls us to stop hiding and come openly to Him. Why do we hide?
Simon Tugwell, in his book The Beatitudes, explains:
We either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self which is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing, and superficially happy. We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing. We hide behind pretty faces, which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like.
God is the father who ran to his prodigal son when he came limping home. God weeps over us when shame and self-hatred immobilize us. God loves who we really are - whether we like itor not, and calls us, as He did Adam, to come out of hiding into a safe place. No amount of spiritual makeup can render us more presentable to Him. "Come to Me now," Jesus says. "Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you: a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs."
It used to be that I never felt safe with myself unless I was performing flawlessly. Unwittingly I had projected onto God my feelings about myself. I felt safe with Him only when I saw myself as noble, generous, and loving, without scars, fears, or tears. Perfect!
Then, one radiant morning on a retreat deep in the Colorado Rockies, I came out of hiding. Jesus removed the shroud of perfectionist performance and, forgiven and free, I ran home. For I knew that Someone was waiting for me. Gripped in the depth of my soul, tears streaming down my cheeks, I internalized and finally felt all the words I had written and spoken about stubborn, unrelenting Love. That morning I understood that the words are but straw compared to the Reality. I leaped from simply being the teacher of God's love to becoming Abba's delight. I said goodbye to feeling frightened and said shalom to feeling safe.
What does it mean to feel you are in a safe place? That afternoon I wrote in my journal:
To feel safe is to stop living in my head and sink down into my heart and feel liked and accepted ... not having to hide anymore and distract myself with books, television, movies, ice cream, shallow conversation ... staying in the present moment and not escaping into the past or projecting into the future, alert and attentive to the now ... feeling relaxed and not nervous or jittery ... no need to impress or dazzle others or draw attention to myself ... Unselfconscious, a new way of being with myself, a new way of being in the world ... calm, unafraid, no anxiety about what's going to happen next ... loved and valued ... just being together as an end in itself.
Thank you for calling to me when I am hiding from You and everyone else, including myself. Thank you that when I was matted and muddy with sin You loved me and looked for me to return home. Thank you for giving me a safe place within the unconditional love of Christ. Amen.
"The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus.... He leaned back on Jesus' breast." John 13:23, 25
"I knew there was only one place to go. I sank down into the center of my soul, grew still, and listened to the Rabbi's heartbeat." B. Manning
From the first moment of our existence our most powerful yearning is to fulfill the original purpose of our lives like the song - "to see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, follow Him more nearly." We are made for God and nothing else will really satisfy us. The deepest desire of our hearts is for union with God.
Seek out a true contemplative - not a person who hears angelic voices and has fiery visions of the cherubim, but the person who encounters God with naked trust. What will that man or woman tell you? Thomas Merton, in The Hidden Ground of Love, responds, "Surrender your poverty and acknowledge your nothingness to the Lord. Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon."
Help me experience the reality that I am the one Jesus loves. Amen.
"What happens when we sin and fail ... when life falls through the cracks?" B. Manning
"Faith is the courage to accept acceptance." B. Manning
One of the most shocking contradictions in the American church is the intense dislike many disciples of Jesus have for themselves. They are more displeased with their own shortcomings than they would ever dream of being about someone else's.
When I was eight, the impostor, or false self, was born as a defense against pain. The impostor within whispered, "Brennan, don't ever be your real self anymore because nobody likes you as you are. Invent a new self that everybody will admire and nobody will know." So I became a good boy - polite, well mannered, unobtrusive, and deferential. I studied hard, scored excellent grades, won a scholarship in high school, and was stalked every moment by the terror of abandonment and the sense that nobody was there for me.
The great divorce between my head and my heart endured throughout my ministry. For eighteen years I proclaimed the good news of God's passionate, unconditional love - utterly convicted in my head but not feeling it in my heart. I never felt loved. But finally, after an intensive soul-searching retreat, I came to understand that I was truly loved. As I finally grasped this immense truth, I began sobbing. As I drained the cup of grief, a remarkable thing happened: In the distance I heard music and dancing. I was the prodigal son limping home, not a spectator but a participant. The impostor faded, and I was in touch with my true self as the returned child of God.
"Come to Me now," Jesus says. "Quit projecting onto Me your own feelings about yourself. At this moment your life is a bruised reed and I will not crush it, a smoldering wick and I will not quench it. You are in a safe place." You are loved.
Abba, Thank you for loving me in my sin and brokenness. Thank you for calling me Your child just as I am. Draw me ever closer to Your loving arms even when I push away and protest that I am not worthy. Thank you for running to greet me even as I finally turn toward home. Amen.
Excerpted from The Rabbi's Heartbeat by Brennan Manning Copyright © 2003 by Brennan Manning. Excerpted by permission.
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