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Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

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Many Christians feel broken and angry but don't think they can express these real feelings around others--or to God. So we put on a mask to hide our identity. Feelings of embarrassment and shame make us hide from the One who truly loves us.

Author Brennan Manning encourages you to let go of this stressful, unreal impostor lifestyle and freely accept your identity as a child of God. Find the rest that you long for as you grow in character and accept His lordship.

Includes discussion questions.

192 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1994

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About the author

Brennan Manning

59 books796 followers
Richard Francis Xavier Manning, known as Brennan Manning (April 27, 1934 – April 12, 2013) was an American author, friar, priest, contemplative and speaker.Born and raised in Depression-era New York City, Manning finished high school, enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and fought in the Korean War. After returning to the United States, he enrolled at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1963, Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest.[2]

In the late 1960s, Manning joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld, a religious institute committed to an uncloistered, contemplative life among the poor. Manning transported water via donkey, worked as a mason's assistant and a dishwasher in France, was imprisoned (by choice) in Switzerland, and spent six months in a remote cave somewhere in the Zaragoza desert. In the 1970s, Manning returned to the United States and began writing after confronting his alcoholism.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 511 reviews
Profile Image for Ilona.
26 reviews2 followers
September 30, 2008
Maybe i missed something but this book in my opinion deserves a wowzers!
it exposed the imposter within me without beating me into the ground, leaving me helpless fully aware of my wretchedness.
instead it helped me to face myself in the mirror, accept that, & feel DAD's love for me regardless who im staring at in the mirror, & then provided courage to step into the world with the good news.
the need for intimate belonging pushes us to look for it in so many different places & become someone else depending on the occasion, event, or people involved. Yet once we; naked & ugly, realize our identity in Christ; therefore the unconditional love from God towards us, we are empowered to seek it no place else but in His arms. That embarks us on a journey that walks closely with the risen Jesus & unashamedly speards this love.
we can never reach perfection, this reality should not cripple us nor make us into white washed tombs. its a call not to be afraid of who we trully are & to continualy look on His face for transformation!
on my top three for sure.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,847 followers
November 2, 2016
Encouraging, enlightening and positive. Our Sunday morning class (most would probably call it Sunday School but we call it "Grace Discipleship Class") just spent several weeks reading and discussing this book. Of course you can read it in less than week (at least I assume most of you can) and I'd say it's worth your time.

Mr. Manning is a Roman Catholic...I'm not. I can and do recommend this book as it (mostly) transcends denominational concerns. It is a book I believe most Christians can/may find profitable.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,628 reviews414 followers
August 1, 2021
2.5 stars

Some very thought-provoking content, but more inclined to emotion than theology. I can easily see why people would find it encouraging. I am stuck on the thought: "you know God loves you, but do you think he likes you?"

At the same time, I didn't ever feel fully comfortable with all the book's content. I also often disengaged from the flow of the reasoning. Perhaps simply too many pithy stories.

For a much more well-reasoned and articulate critique, read Jeff's review.

But not a terrible read. I think in a different season, I might have appreciated this one more.
Profile Image for Brian Stevenson.
24 reviews4 followers
May 15, 2009
Self-hatred is the dominant malaise crippling Christians and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit. The cause of self-hatred is disparaging words from family members, moralizing from the church, and pressure to be successful in the world’s eyes. Alcoholism, workaholism, other addictive behaviors, and escalating suicide rates reflect the magnitude of the problem. To complicate things, our self-rejection leads to the creation of a false self (“the imposter”) to protect us against pain. It’s the self that we present to everyone else to get recognition and approval while keeping fear and shame at a safe distance.

The imposter has a desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everyone will admire him, but know one will know him. The false self that he creates blinds himself to his own emptiness and hollowness. The imposter cannot experience intimacy in any relationship. His narcissism excludes others. The imposter even refuses to be his true self with God, and then wonder why he lacks intimacy with Him.

Brennan Manning then recaptures our forgotten identity: I am The Beloved... Abba's Child. After anchoring the reader with his true identity, his true self, he uses the remainder of the book to usurp the power of the impostor, squash religiosity, demonstrate how to live with resurrection power, uncover how to live life passionately, and restore an intimate relationship with the Father.
Profile Image for Shaun.
468 reviews21 followers
July 29, 2012
First read, not likey. Second read, AWESOME! At first I felt the book condoned all forms of licentious behavior. Your inner King Baby compels you to commit adultery? That's okay just give ol' King Baby a hug, ask your mate for forgiveness saying "King Baby made me do it" and pray for God's grace and you're good to go! Oh but we're it that simple. It's not. What the book does not speak about is God's holiness and our need for reverence for God. A religious self-help book that speaks of both issues would be a best seller. Nonetheless, Manning's book is well worth the time. His contribution to religious and theological debate and dialogue on this issue is immense, lifting the curtain back so that "more will be revealed". So good, in fact, that I am compelled to read it again. Rare is the book that can get me to do that.
Profile Image for Dick.
405 reviews6 followers
October 31, 2013
A pastor friend of mine gave me this book to read. I am not sure what prompted it, perhaps he saw something in me that would be helped by reading the book.

If that was his goal, he hit a home run!

I remember the night vividly that I found Christ, really found Him. There were some days after that when I knew my life was different, richer and far better than it had been. I began feeling unworthy and said so in my daily prayer walks. Then one morning when I uttered that word - unworthy - He spoke to me. Yes, He did - for those of you that doubt Him communicating . . . it is true. I did not believe it before either. But there was no mistaking who was communicating with me.

Since that time I have tried to find ways to measure up to Him in how I live my life and ways to serve. Active at church, host every 4th week at church, volunteer at the church's resource center, help to support a ministry and poor church in Londrina, Brasil. Sounds like I do a lot, right? Somehow it never seems to be enough. In my mind. And those feelings of being unworthy still creep into my consciousness.

This book helped me to see that - that part of me that feels unworthy and not measuring up is the imposter in me (dare I say Satan).

The imposter in me - and yes, you - prevents true intimacy with Christ. Something that we all need and is freely given by Christ.

Oh I know I cannot - nor can anyone - reach perfection. Still, the base line can be raised even if ever so slowly and recognizing that as well as ceasing be so self-critical is important to further efforts to serve.

I bet the number of people who have fled the church due to it being too patient or compassionate is small. Rather, the number that have fled due to the church being too judgmental and unforgiving is far, far higher. That is truly tragic.

One thing that occurred to me is that the leadership in church is entrusted not to the fund raisers, Biblical scholars or preachers. Rather, it is entrusted to those who have found a passion for His love, for sharing His love and for a personal relationship with Christ.

To stand up for truth and for human dignity can be a lonely role. We often find friends and associates distancing themselves from us when we do those kinds of things. They may even criticize you for that. Don't make waves. When in Rome, do as the Romans do attitude.

As a Christian I came away from this book with a resolve to not drift - when I sometimes do - or say nothing when others say things that are not right. I was reminded that Christ told us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. On the other hand, I do not think Christ expected us to play "kissy-face" with them, either.

It takes a strong conversion to accept that God is relentless in His love and compassion for each of us. This - in spite of our sins and shortfalls - but with them. God does not condone or support evil, but He does not withhold His love for us because there is evil in us.

Since coming to Christ over 12 years ago, I have continued to live a life that will be pleasing to others. The problem with that is that the terms I set for that were hardly ever met and surely there was seldom if any positive feedback from those I was trying to please. I say that because that is how I saw His love for me . . . I did not measure up and only when I did measure up - in my mind - did I believe He loved me.

The bottom line here is that God loves us not in spite of our sins, but with our sins. Knowing and accepting that will help us to obey Him.

I will close with a verse that sums it up for me:
John 8:1-11
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Profile Image for Nina Donkin.
4 reviews
March 25, 2013
I found Abba's Child to be a very thought provoking book. It presents to us a picture of what it can look like for a Christian to truly know the love of our Heavenly Father.

One of the issues presented in the book is how, often, we create an "Imposter" - a false self who we live through, either trying to be accepted by people or trying to hide our sinful nature. But this is not how we are called to live - we are not called to live falsely, in a masquerade of "goodness" - instead we are called to live our lives as humble, forgiven sinners, who live present in the moment, and focus on serving God, not on achieving our own ends, or working for recognition.

This book is simply a wonderful reminder of living our lives for Christ, not ourselves, and how we can draw close to the Lord if we just let go of our own selfish desires, and focus on Him. This is a book which is very honest and real - sure, it has lots of theology and doctrine in it, which is great, but it is also very easy to understand, and has lots of great advice on how to implement things from it in our own lives.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but particularly to Christians who are struggling to feel the Lord's presence in their life, or who are struggling with the reality of living for Christ.
June 7, 2021
This book is SO. GOOD. Manning taught me so much about my identity as Abba’s Child and what it looks like to truly live out of this identity. Every believer should read this book!
Profile Image for Stevie.
164 reviews12 followers
June 8, 2009
Poignant Quotes:

The sorrow of God lies in our fear of Him, our fear of life, and our fear of ourselves.

In my experience, self-hatred is the dominant malaise crippling Christians and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit.

Often breakdowns lead to breakthroughs.

If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others…but when we dare to live as forgiven men and women, we join the wounded healers and draw closer to Jesus.

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.

This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to unknown to God is altogether too much privacy. My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love – outside of reality and outside of life.

The sad irony is that the impostor cannot experience intimacy in any relationship.

The false self specializes in treacherous disguise. He is the lazy part of self, resisting the effort, asceticism, and discipline that intimacy with God requires.

Self-hatred always results in some form of self-destructive behavior.

[the true self is:] unself-conscious, unpretentious, immersed in life, absorbed in the present moment, breathing in God as naturally as a fish swimming in water.

It is the story of an ordinary man whose soul was seduced and ravished by Jesus Christ.

Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.

We give glory to God simply by being ourselves.

“Who am I?” asked Merton, and he responded, “I am one loved by Christ.” This is the foundation of the true self.

Our controlled frenzy creates the illusion of well-ordered existence. We move from crisis to crisis, responding to the urgent and neglecting the essential.

The false self is skilled at the controlled openness that scrupulously avoids any significant self-disclosure.

“In a revealed religion, silence with God has a value in itself and for its own sake, just because God is God. Failure to recognize the value of mere being with God, as the beloved, without doing anything, is to gouge the heart out of Christianity.” – Edward Schillebeeckx

I take myself less seriously, become aware that the breath of the Father is on my face and that my countenance is bright with laughter in the midst of an adventure I thoroughly enjoy.

We huff and puff to impress God, scramble for brownie points, thrash about trying to fix ourselves, and live the gospel in such a joyless fashion that it has little appeal to nominal Christians and unbelievers searching for truth.

My dignity as Abba’s child is my most coherent sense of self.

Because the shining sun and the falling rain are given both to those who love God and to those who reject God, the compassion of the Son embraces those who are still living in sin.

Experientially, the inner healing of the heart is seldom a sudden catharsis or an instant liberation from bitterness, anger, resentment, and hatred. More often it is a gentle growing into oneness with the Crucified who has achieved our peace through His blood on the cross. This may take considerable time because the memories are still so vivid and the hurt is still so deep. But it will happen. The crucified Christ is not merely a heroic example to the church: He is the power and wisdom of God, a living force in His present risenness, transforming our lives and enabling us to extend the hand of reconciliation to our enemies.

The heartfelt compassion that hastens forgiveness matures when we discover where our enemy cries.

Living in the wisdom of accepted tenderness profoundly affects my perception of reality, the way I respond to people and their life situations.

The self-acceptance that flows from embracing my core identity as Abba’s child enables me to encounter my utter brokenness with uncompromising honesty and complete abandon to the mercy of God. As my friend Sister Barbara Fiand said,”Wholeness is brokenness owned and thereby healed.”

Instead of expanding our capacity for life, joy, and mystery, religion often contracts it.

Blame is a defensive substitute for an honest examination of life that seeks personal growth in failure and self-knowledge in mistakes.

A vague uneasiness about ever being in right relationship with God haunts the pharisee’s conscience. The compulsion to feel safe with God fuels this neurotic desire for perfection. This compulsive endless moralistic self-evaluation makes it impossible to feel accepted before God. His perception of personal failure leads to a precipitous loss of self-esteem and triggers anxiety, fear, and depression.

In sharp contrast to the pharisaic perception of God and religion, the biblical perception of the gospel of grace is that of a child who has never experienced anything but love and who tries to do her best because she is loved. When she makes mistakes, she knows they do not jeopardize the love of her parents. The possibility that her parents might stop loving her if she doesn’t clean her room never enters her minds. They may disapprove of her behavior, but their love is not contingent on her performance.

For the Pharisee the emphasis is always on personal effort and achievement. The gospel of grace emphasizes the primacy of God’s love. The Pharisee savors impeccable conduct; the child delights in the relentless tenderness of God.

The gospel portrait of the beloved Child of Abba is that of a man exquisitely attuned to His emotions and uninhibited in expressing them. The Son of Man did not scorn feelings as fickle and unreliable. They were sensitive emotional antennae to which He listened carefully and through which He perceived the will of His Father for congruent speech and action.

Our inner child is not an end in itself but a doorway into the depths of our union with our indwelling God, a sinking down into the fullness of the Abba experience, into the vivid awareness that my inner child is Abba’s child, held fast by Him, both in light and in shadow.

Limiting the resurrection either to the past or to the future makes the present risenness of Jesus largely irrelevant, safeguards us from interference with the ordinary rounds and daily routine of our lives, and preempts communion now with Jesus as a living person.

In other words, the resurrection needs to be experienced as present risenness. If we take seriously the word of the risen Christ, ”Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20), we should expect that He will be actively present in our lives. If our faith is alive and luminous, we will be alert to moments, events, and occasions when the power of resurrection is brought to bear on our lives. Self-absorbed and inattentive, we fail to notice the subtle ways in which Jesus is snagging our attention.

Hope knows that if great trials are avoided great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted.

The central miracle of the gospel is not the raising of Lazarus or the multiplication of the loaves or all the dramatic healing stories taken together. The miracle of the gospel is Christ, risen and glorified, who this very moment tracks us, pursues us, abides in us, and offers Himself to us as companion for the journey

Contemplation, defined as looking at Jesus while loving Him, leads not only to intimacy but to the transformation of the person contemplating.

Our impulse to tell the salvation-story arises from listening to the heartbeat of the risen Jesus within us.

The imposter recoils at the prospect of telling the story because he fears rejection. He is tense and anxious because he must rely on himself; his power is limited by his paltry resources. He dreads failure.

The moment we acknowledge that we are powerless, we enter into the liberating sphere of the risen One and we are freed from anxiety over the outcome.

The heart is the symbol we employ to capture the deepest essence of personhood. It symbolizes what lies at the core of our being; it defines irreducibly who we really are. We can know and be known only through revealing the revelation of what is in our heart.

“All religion experience at its roots is an experience of an unconditional and unrestricted being in love.” – Bernard Lonergan

The recovery of passion begins with the recovery of my true self as the beloved…John did not believe that Jesus was the most important thing; he believed that Jesus was the only thing.

Until I lay my head on Jesus’ breast, listen to His heartbeat, and personally appropriate the Christ-experience of Johns’ eye-witness, I have only a derivative spirituality.

The Christ of faith is no less accessible to us in His present risenness than was the Christ of history in His human flesh to the beloved disciple.

Leadership in the church is not entrusted to successful fund-raisers, brilliant biblical scholars, administrative geniuses, or spellbinding preachers (though these assets may be helpful), but to those who have been laid waste by a consuming passion for Christ – passionate men and women for whom privilege and power are trivial compared to knowing and loving Jesus.

In John’s Gospel, the Jews are said to be incapable of believing because they “look to one another for approval” (5:44). There appears to be a radical incompatibility between human respect and authentic faith in Christ.

Anthony of Padua opened every class he taught with the phrase, “Of what value is learning that does not turn to love?”

The one great passion in Jesus’ life was His Father. He carried a secret in His heart that made Him great and lonely.

…who we are in God is of ultimate significance. Who one is transcends what one does or what one says or what descriptive traits and qualities one has.

If you want to know what a person really believes, don’t just listen to what he says, watch what he does.

A profound mystery: God becomes a slave. This implies very specifically that God wants to be known through servanthood. Such is God’s own self-disclosure.

The imponderable trait of the human psyche is its ability to make irrational judgments about worthwhile human investments along with its refusal to view life in light of eternity.

Saint Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, offers the sober advice to “keep your own death before your eyes each day.” It is not a counsel to morbidity but a challenge to faith and fortitude. Until we come to terms with this primal fact of life, as Parker Palmer noted, there can be no spirituality worth speaking of.

“The prospect of being hanged concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully.” – Samuel Johnson

My death-defying no to despair at the end of my life and my life-affirming yes to seemingly insurmountable problems in the midst of my life are both animated by hope in the invincible might of the risen Jesus and in the immeasurable scope of His power in us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).

Paul Claudel once stated that the greatest sin is to lose the sense of sin.

The release from chronic egocentricity starts with letting Christ love them where they are.

The lives of those fully engaged in the human struggle will be riddled with bullet holes. Whatever happened in the life of Jesus is in some way going to happen to us. Wounds are necessary. The soul has to be wounded as well as the body. To think that the natural and proper state is to be without wounds is an illusion. Those who wear bulletproof vests protecting themselves from failure, shipwreck, and heartbreak will never know what love is. The unwounded life bears no resemblance to the Rabbi.

Confession of fault requires a good self-concept. Repression of fault means a bad self-concept.

The ragtag cabal of disciples who have caught the spirit of the bride, opened the door to Jesus, reclined at the table, and listened to His heartbeat will experience at least four things.

First, listening to the Rabbi’s heartbeat is immediately a Trinitarian experience.

Second, we realize we are not alone on the Yellow Brick Road.

Third, when we recline at the table with Jesus we will learn that the recovery of passion is intimately connected with the discovery of the passion of Jesus.

The etymological root of “passion” is the Latin verb passere, “to suffer.”

Christianity consists primarily not in what we do for God but in what God does for us – the great, wondrous things that God dreamed up and achieved for us in Christ Jesus.
Know God
Love God
Love people – pass on to others what God has shown me about enjoying him and drawing near to Him
Make disciples
Become like Jesus
Profile Image for Emily Magnus.
199 reviews3 followers
March 22, 2021
Wowee, this one was refreshing for the soul. Good starts to my mornings reading about identity and hoping/praying to have the perspective to see myself as Abbas Child. Here’s to claiming and naming ourselves as we were created to be. Loved Manning’s honesty and vulnerability in calling out our imposter within.
BPOTB (bullet points of the book):
* The imposter is what he does.
* Every one of us is shadow wed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him.
* The imposter is antsy in prayer. He hungers for excitement, craves some mood-elevating experience. He is depressed when deprived of the spotlight.
* The false self flees silence and solitude because they remind him of death. The false self is frustrated because he never hears Gods voice.
December 6, 2022
Can't recommend enough if you, too, have become disoriented in a world of religious rhetoric and long to remember the tenderness of God.
Profile Image for Ben Moser.
36 reviews7 followers
May 7, 2021
His musings on the imposter were helpful and provide decent fodder for thought. Oddly enough, I think his chapter about the Pharisee is contributing to the anti-semitism that he expressed he hopes will diminish in our society today. He calls for greater understanding of Judaism and increased interfaith communion, but He bashes the Judaism of Jesus’ day. The Pharisees were not perfect. Jesus corrected them and challenged them and their understanding of the text. But Manning’s writing comes across as “those stupid Pharisees and their rules.” I think this view is problematic. It’s as if he believed the Pharisees were intentionally heaping heavy burdens to intentionally draw the Israelites away from God. Let me ask you this. Are you trying your best to follow God and love faithfully? Chances are the answer is yes. Sure we aren’t perfect and it’s hard and sometimes we fail. But if I truly believe I am doing my best to follow God and be faithful then I think it’s far to believe that is true of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day too. Maybe we should look closer at how Jesus interacts with them and have a deeper understanding of Judaism in Jesus’ day.

I also found it wildly difficult to tell when he was quoting someone else and when he was speaking his own thoughts.

Don’t read this book. Save yourself the time and read Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved instead.
Profile Image for Debby.
931 reviews19 followers
December 15, 2010
Abba's Child is a very thought provoking book about what it might look like for a Christian to truly believe and then live life as one dearly and eternally loved by God (our Heavenly Father; our Abba).

I really liked the section about living falsely as The Imposter vs. the truth that as a Christian, it is Christ's life, Chist's love that is to flow through me to others, no matter who they are or in what condition I meet them. He talks a lot about living in the present reality that Christ is slive, living in me and loving through me.

Manning has had his share of struggles and faith crises which he is vulnerable enought to share openly. This makes the book all the more honest and real. He's not just talkng theory or doctrine, but the stuff of a real fight for believing and living Christ in me the hope of glory.

Manning is an ex-Catholic priest (dropped out and got married), so there is some Catholic stuff I just sifted through as I'm read. Overall, I found the book very good, very thought provoling and one I will read again.
Profile Image for Camelia.
70 reviews8 followers
November 26, 2020
It’s one of those books that make you feel like you fit in. I’ve been fighting my impostor for a long long time and it was hard to even articulate the issue. However, when I picked up this book ... it was like the author was writing about me. And it was liberating to understand that I am not crazy and others have been fighting their own impostors.
And above all ... it teaches us Abba’s great love for us, His children!
I would totally recommend this book, BUT it’s one of those books ... for a specific season in life. For me, it came in my life at the right time!
Profile Image for Kate Moore Walker.
55 reviews4 followers
May 4, 2021
This book changed my thinking and processing of my current season of life is deep and good ways. And I’m confident it will continue to change my thinking and processing. Manning is a a storyteller at heart, so he weaves stories with the truth of Jesus beautifully. Manning reframes everything through the simple and profound fact that we are Abba’s beloved children. That fact can and should change how we perceive and interact with ourselves and our neighbors.
I would recommend this book to anyone who feels like they aren’t enough or will never be enough. Read this and be loved.
Profile Image for Sarah Fowler Wolfe.
278 reviews51 followers
June 25, 2018
While there are definitely a few gems of encouraging truth in here, they're couched in spiritualism, encouragement to look for extrabiblical revelation, and even talk of communication with the dead (by asserting the resurrection of bodies has already taken place, no less).

I read it because my father asked me to as he found it encouraging, but I cannot recommend it to anyone and if you insist you must read it with a whole shakerful of salt.
Profile Image for Shari McCullough.
109 reviews
May 19, 2013
Brennan Manning, as only he can, through his own vulnerability and illustrations from his life and other sources reminds us that we have a God who indeed loves us, like a daddy, an abba. The book is an invitation to each reader to lean against the Abba's chest, so to speak, and listen to the heartbeat of God's love.
Profile Image for Jeff.
Author 4 books6 followers
November 27, 2020
I feel a bit guilty giving this book a poor review. I'm not entirely confident of my opinion of the book: it may be a great work, well-written, full of truth, useful truth, that I happen not to understand or appreciate. But, after trying to read it with an open mind two or three times over the course of more than a decade, I find that I must affirm the state of my own mind towards its content: I don't appreciate it, I don't believe it's a great book, terribly well-written, or full of truth. I think it's a troublesome book, adequately well-written, and full of at best questionable—perhaps heretical—teachings.

There are two essential problems.

The first is mechanical, a matter of writing. Manning's mind is a wandering mind. Too often his paragraphs do not flow. Each paragraph lives in its own world, with its own subject, vaguely identified and with too weak a connection to the adjacent paragraphs. His chapters, then, are like shotguns: a set of disconnected paragraphs, launched in parallel and without apparent connection, that, as a blast of asserted and re-asserted belief, make their point clearly enough, but don't build on each other to establish breadth or depth. To try the truth of this critique, stop yourself in the middle of any given paragraph and ask: What is the subject of this paragraph? How does the subject follow from the prior paragraph? How does sit pave the way for the next one? Too often, you'll find yourself answering: "I'm not sure; it doesn't; it does vaguely at best."

The writing is also marred (to my ear) by an excess of quotations. To a large extent this book is a set of annotated quotations. Most paragraphs embed a quotation, comment on it, and seem motivated by it. From a logical perspective, the arguments of the book are pro hominem: "This fine person said this, therefore it's true." There is not enough in the way of Scriptural or logical defenses for what are, after all, bold assertions about God and man and the way we should live.

The work does contain a wealth of interesting—sometimes engrossing—and memorable stories. And the writing is essentially good: Manning is a winsome writer, just structurally and logically loose.

The second problem is doctrinal. Manning is of that camp of modern Quietists that include Richard Foster and David Willard as recent luminaries. Collectively they admire Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, and Meister Eckhart. Their doctrine is Armenian almost to the point of Universalism and emphasizes God's immanence almost to the point of pantheism. The irony—and this is a common fault of Armenianism—is that the emphasis on the ready availability of God's pervasive love creates a kind of legalism of the mind that sequesters access to God through spiritual exercises and disciplines. In other words, their doctrine summarizes troublesomely as, "God is with you and in you all the time and loves you despite all your faults; so what's wrong with you that you can't perceive this?"

Manning's assertion is that God loves you and me, boundlessly and without reservation. Any guilt or chastisement we feel arises from our own faulty beliefs, our own self-punishment, and perhaps from Satanic temptation. I don't know that I disagree with this assertion, so far, depending on who you apply it to and how far you take it. Manning applies to everyone, I think, and takes it all the way.

Since God loves you and me so richly, our failure to experience that love is our own fault. God is not quiet; we are not listening.

The solution, then, is to learn to listen well for God's quiet voice. We should do so both on special occasions and regularly. We do so on special occasions by way of multi-day silent retreats, which often culminate in a clear message from God to our mind. Here again, I don't disagree with this practice. Multi-day, silent retreats can be highly valuable, and can lead to hearing from God more clearly.

Between retreats, we fill our daily prayers with silence, sometimes rejecting words and discrete thoughts and instead just listening. When we do so successfully, we come to recognize that God is always with us, always looking on us with nothing but love and approval, and we enjoy peace, happiness, and empowerment.

All of these ideas are beautiful and attractive. I've read them in many authors—Foster and Willard among them—and am always drawn toward them. And, again, I don't deny that spiritual retreats or daily silence in prayer is of value for Christians. I don't deny that God is love and looks on his children with grace and approval beyond our knowing, and that much of our own guilt is self-imposed.

But I think reality is more complex than Manning and his mentors make out; it's dirtier and more ordinary, more domestic and practical. We see both in Scripture and in experience that our interactions with God are messy, and they live not primarily in the prayer room but in the hourly activities of the day, in serving and struggling and relating as it happens moment-to-moment. God's interaction with each of us is more complex than a mere shining blanket of unblinking love: God disciplines those he loves; God's Spirit may be grieved; rebuke and correction and teaching through Scripture and in the community of the church is also necessary for growth. The problem with Manning's view is not that it's untrue. God does love us, and silence can help us hear from God. But the emphasis is wrong, and the Gospel is truncated. Human life in relation to God is oversimplified. There's much more to the story.

You begin to see the cracks of Manning's error when he discusses Phariseeism and prejudice. It is an extraordinary truth that antinomianism brings its own legalism. Those who say, "No one may judge!" are the harshest judges of all. Here, Manning follows his two chapters on God's unquestioning love with two chapters berating Christians for our racism and homophobia. He was writing in 1994 and probably didn't perceive the deeper switcheroo that the homosexual religion was preparing for Christians; or maybe he did; who knows? The point is that an oversimplified Christian moral system, as Manning expresses here, is a fragile and dangerous one. Morality, like spirituality and devotion (whatever they may mean), is more complex than Manning here conveys.

In the end I am left with a charming if meandering book that expresses winsome but half-cocked ideas about how to draw closer to God. I'd like to hope that there are Christians who desperately need to hear the positive affirmations of God's love that Manning does emphasize, and who therefore benefit, on the whole, from his words. Most of us do need to take more time in prayer and should be more open to hearing God's voice in prayer. A silent retreat now and again is good medicine. My hope is that for those who hear these messages, no harm done, and probably some good.

But personally, from where I sit, I found the book to be not-terribly-enjoyable and not-terribly-helpful. It is more liable to decrease than to increase my closeness to God.
Profile Image for Isabel Hinen.
184 reviews3 followers
February 2, 2023
I found this book outdated, harsh (even though it's supposed to be about compassion and belonging?) and yet very liberal for its time. I gave it as fair a chance as I could but after Chapter 5 I was just done. His writing style is very overdone, chocked full of important-sounding words but not very full of meaning. He starts out with a message about compassion and grace, but hammers mercilessly on those with views he disagrees with (focusing especially on accepting homosexuals yet railing on "bigots"). God calls us to love everyone, yes, and to be a friend to sinners, because we too are sinners. But I think Brennan Manning is dancing over the line between compassion for those who sin, and encouragement of sin. He has no mercy for people with pharisaical views, yet has all the mercy for those living in sexual sin. To me there should be no difference between the two, as both are equally guilty of missing the mark. I also felt like after the second chapter, he went off on a wild rabbit trail and then tried to feebly connect it to the original theme of the book. This was recommended to me by a highly reputable source, so I was really disappointed in how it turned out.
Profile Image for Maddie Dreffer.
1 review1 follower
January 9, 2021
Very interesting read about our inner imposter and the way God calls us to be His child. Challenging and enlightening. Some quotes that I loved from this book:

“The imposter demands to be noticed. His craving for compliments energizes his futile quest for carnal satisfaction. His bandages are his identity. Appearances are everything. He convolutes esse quam videri (to be rather than to seem to be) so that “seeming to be” becomes his modus operandi.”

“The prayer of simple awareness means we don’t have to get anywhere because we are already there.”
Profile Image for Alli Kennedy.
11 reviews3 followers
August 26, 2022
The last chapters are incredibly good.

The reason for four stars is because there are a few things that are distracting to me about the writing. I felt it a bit fragmented in pacing and filled with antidotal stories. I was unengaged for a portion of the book, sadly.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I came away with a heart brimming over with Christ’s affection. This read is a good reminder of who we really are and how we think of ourselves in stark contrast to who Abba is and how He sees us. It is a fresh glimpse at His love, spelled out through the Word and Manning’s experiences.
18 reviews
December 29, 2020
This book was a beautiful reminder of God’s great love for me. “It takes a profound conversion to accept that God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are - not in spite of our sins and faults...but with them. Though God does not condone or sanction evil, He does not withhold His love because there is evil in us.”
Profile Image for Savannah Petit.
25 reviews
August 6, 2021
This book was incredible and one I will likely return to. Manning put language to experiences I didn't have the language for and shed light on the places we like to keep hidden. And in this light there is relief and forgiveness offered. Highly recommend!
21 reviews
August 7, 2023
This book (almost) made me cry in the gym.

A reminder of my identity in Christ.
Profile Image for Katja.
13 reviews
August 14, 2023
This was an excellent book. It took me a while to read because I had the startling realization that I don’t believe God truly loves me. Well, he does, and that’s good news. There’s a lot in here that I want to think and pray and journal about.
Profile Image for Sarah McGlynn.
4 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2023
I will read any and every Brennan Manning book. Love how he writes and his confidence in know what Jesus thinks of him - despite his performance. His books refresh me every time
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