Back in the 90’s I listened to the music of Rich Mullins and Michael Card a lot. Both musicians were greatly influenced by Brennan Manning’s book The Ragamuffin Gospel. Mullins was so impacted by the ideas in this book that he named his band The Ragamuffin Band and now the working title for the upcoming movie about Mullins’ life is A Ragamuffin’s Legacy.
That legacy extends to so many of authors and artists of the past thirty years. Apparently some of the members of U2 read Manning. I see Manning’s influence in the works of Phillip Yancy and Donald Miller and in worship lyrics like “beautiful, scandalous night.” Michael W. Smith wrote the forward to the stack of copies of Ragamuffin that sit in our living room waiting to be given away. Like Mullins and so many others, I am part of that Ragamuffin legacy.
Reading The Ragamuffin Gospel challenged me to reconsider some of the practices and attitudes I was bringing into my relationship with God and into how I communicated the message of grace to other people. Manning called out my “imposter” and started me on the road to recovery.
I struggle with fear and insecurity the way Brennan Manning struggled with alcohol. What if I believe the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing? What if I get cross-ways with the people who define “the wrong thing”? What if I give someone the wrong impression of Jesus? What if God’s grace has limits and I’ve exceeded them? What if I lose love? I spent long periods of my life, sometimes years, frozen in place because I was afraid. To paraphrase Ragamuffin, I had “confused my perception of myself with the mystery that I really am accepted.”
Ragamuffin helped me to experience God’s love without the fear. Even after my personal relationship with Christ took an emotional and intellectual turn, it took years for me to be vulnerable and authentic with some of the people in my life. I still have lapses of insecurity. I flounder around socially and relationally, especially when I am outside my comfort zone – and lately it seems that I am always outside my comfort zone. More than anything anyone else has ever said to reassure me, Brennan Manning gave me permission to proceed in my scandalous imperfection.