You finished well, Brennan.
I’m sorry if it doesn’t though.
I only had the chance to meet him a couple of times, yet he left enough of himself with me that it gave me a good moment of pause today in hearing he had passed into life beyond this one yesterday [Read his obituary here]. He took the final steps of his journey as another wise acquaintance John Blase (who co-wrote Brennan’s last book with him) described it here:
Scripts. We all live by them. A few of us are hopelessly devoted to one while the rest of us cut quite the syncretic rug. These scripts are always interesting, especially in how they describe our last scenes, our finishing touches, our goings into that good night. One prevalent script, especially in circles of faith, claims you can finish this life like some glistening Olympic athlete in the winner’s circle, gold ’round your neck and applause in your ears. That’s certainly one option, and an attractive one at that albeit fairly rare. Another script exists, however, that presents a different finish, one dramatically less clean but achingly more memorable.
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” — The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
There you have it, the script for the rest of us: crossing the finish line thin-haired, eye-drooped, loose-jointed and all-around-shabby. But real. And beautiful.
And also I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite Brennan Manning quotes:
“If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don’t find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don’t cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God’s truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition. ”
If you knew Brennan, or even if you didn’t but you’re interested in what a wise old soul had to say about scandalous grace, you might read the rest of John’s article here or read the poem John wrote about Brennan upon his passing. Or maybe take some time to watch Brennan’s sermon below entitled, God Loves You As You Are, Not As You Should Be. It was Brennan’s end-of-life message, his lifelong anthem, the enduring message he would want us all to take away: all is grace.
Thanks, Brennan. May we all finish so well.
If you enjoyed that video, here’s a two minute video scrapbook of Brennan’s life released with his last book as well.