I’ve started reading Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God. The Wednesday book discussion led by Sarah Salter and Jason Stayszsen is up and running, and we’re reading the Manning book.
And all it takes to pitch me backward in time is the first sentence in Manning’s introduction: “For two years, between 1971 and 1973, I lived with a community of Franciscans in Bayou La Batre, Alabama.”
While Manning was with the Franciscans, I was finishing my last two years of college at LSU, and crashing toward my own confrontation with the Creator.
Forty years ago, on Jan. 25, 1973, I discovered the furious longing of God.
I should be more precise: Forty years ago, I recognized the furious longing of God. It had been there all along. I had had occasional glimpses of it before then – taking my catechism classes in 7th and 8th grade more seriously than anyone of my fellow catechumens; breaking away from my Lutheran roots and attending a Baptist church late in high school; considering the possibility of Lutheran seminary when I discovered I was not designed for a pre-med curriculum.
The dance had started, but I didn’t understand that the different steps were actually a dance.
To those who knew me, especially at college, I did not seem a candidate for God’s furious longing. I was not attending church. I didn’t hang out with the Christian crowd in the fraternity. I was majoring in journalism – proof of my basic paganism. I was known for enjoying fraternity football-game parties, jungle juice parties, just about anything that had the word “party” in it. I filled my non-party hours with work – school work and my work at the student newspaper.
I filled up as much of my life as I physically could in the vain attempt to block out the reality of emptiness – mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
I’ve previously told the story of what happened. But that night, I came face-to-face with what I had been running from – my own sorry self, and what Manning calls “the furious longing of God.”
This is how Manning describes it: “the furious longing of God is beyond our wildest desires, our hope or hopelessness, our rectitude or wickedness, neither cornered by sweet talk or gentle persuasion…It cannot be tamed, boxed, captivated, housebroken, or templebroken. It is simply and startlingly Jesus, the effulgence of the Father’s love.”
That was it. Almost exactly. I was overwhelmed to the point of prayer.
And then came the next 40 years of honing, polishing, shaping, breaking, reconstructing. One day, I expect to see all this finished. But not anytime soon.
To see more of the discussion on this first chapter of The Furious Longing of God, netitled “Genesis,” please visit Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines.