Listening in with Michael Card & Brennan Manning
- Friday, August 13, 2004
We hardly felt the need to “introduce” these thinkers/teachers to you. Considering their exhaustive work in the Christian community — from Brennan’s regular speaking engagements and 14 books, including the famed "Ragamuffin Gospel" and "Abba’s Child," to Michael’s 27 albums, recent writing on lament literature and “In the Studio with Michael Card” radio program, there are hardly words to describe the impact these two have made on those who’ve encountered them or their work throughout their decades of ministry. Now we’re honored these two friends of 20 years set aside time to converse exclusively for CCM readers.
Michael: A long time ago we first met through your book, "Lion and Lamb: the Tenderness of Jesus." And the key theme, for me, was healing our image of God and God our Abba. What does it mean that God is our Father?
Brennan: American child psychologists tell us that children learn to speak between the ages of 14 and 18 months. Regardless of the sex of the child, the first word normally spoken at that age level is “Da Da Daddy.” A little Jewish child, speaking Aramaic in first century Palestine at the time of the historic Jesus, at the same age would say “Ab Ab Abba.” I really think we caught the revolutionary revelation of Jesus’ teaching on God the Father because He’s daring us to address the infinite, transcendent, almighty God in the same colloquial form of address our own children used that morning, which is Abba, literally meaning “Daddy.”
Without hesitation, the greatest gift I’ve ever received in my life in Jesus is the Abba experience. I could only stutter and stammer about the life-changing power of the Abba encounter; and, by that, I mean freedom from the fear of life, freedom from the fear that I’m going to betray Jesus with my own malice and freedom from the fear of death.
In the years of the Abba desert, which began in the Zaragoza Desert in Spain in the late 1960s, things I’ve come to see about Abba is, one: His love is intimate. If you’ve got skeletons in the closet from your past life, something so shameful, so embarrassing, so utterly self-centered that your palms start sweating when you start thinking about it, the intimate love of Abba reaches into that dark experience. Reconciliation in the Scriptures is not primarily making peace with someone else; it’s first of all making peace with that part of yourself where peace couldn’t be found before — such is the intimate love of Abba.
Second, His love is unique, meaning Abba loves me not as you think I am, not as I am supposed be, but as I really am. And the real Brennan Manning is a bundle of contradictions. I believe in Abba with all my heart; but on a given day when I see a 9-year-old girl raped and murdered by a sex maniac or a 4-year-old boy slaughtered by a drunken driver, I wonder to believe a loving Father exists.
The God of my experience is: I love, and I hate. I feel bad about feeling good. I feel guilty if I don’t feel guilty. I’m wide open and locked in. I’m trusting and suspicious. I’m honest and still play games.
The fourth thing I’ve learned is Abba’s love is reliable. He loves me if I’m in a state of grace or disgrace. And I’m sure, Mike, if you and I had the chance to share our lives’ stories, we’d discover a striking similarity that both of our lives have been a celebration of God’s faithfulness in good times and in bad.
Ironically, it was April Fool’s Day 1965 that I woke up at 6:30 in the morning in a doorway on a commercial boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I woke up in an alcoholic fog, smelling vomit all over my sweater, staring down at my bare feet. And coming along a sidewalk was a woman, maybe 25, blonde hair, attractive lady. She had a 4-year-old son on her hand. The boy broke loose from his mother’s grip right at the doorway and stared at me. The mother came up quickly behind him, cupped her hand to cover his eyes and said, “Don’t look at that filth. All that is, is pure filth.” And 29 years ago, that filth was Brennan Manning. The Abba I’ve come to know through experience, the Abba I’ve come to know by faith loves me as much if I’m born in the state of grace as He does this “born again” state of grace. For His love is never, never, never based on our performance, never conditioned by our moods of manipulation or oppression. It knows no shadow of alteration or change. The love of Abba in Christ Jesus is reliable.
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