If people know you’re a reader you get books recommended to you all the time, which is nice, but if you’re a reader you’ve probably already got a stack of books on your night stand or shelves of books you’ve collected that you want to read first. This means your friends book recommendations get pushed further and further down on your Amazon Wishlist. This is where Abba’s Child was for me. But after reconnecting with a dear friend who has recommended this book to me for years, I bumped it to the top of the list and I am so glad I did.
I love reading people’s “Top 5” or “Top 10” book lists, and Abba’s Child immediately became a “Top 5” book for me. This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read and I think it’s one that everyone should read.
Abba’s Child (1994) was written by Brennan Manning (1934-2013). Manning was a prolific writer and speaker and wrote a number of other well known works, such as: The Ragamuffin Gospel (1990) and The Furious Longing of God (2009). Manning’s own story of struggle, brokenness, addiction, and his encounter with God’s mercy, grace, and love saturate every page of this book which makes it so deeply personal.
The heart of the book is about beginning to see yourself the way God, your Father, your Abba sees you. Manning starts the book by suggesting that often times our understanding of how God see’s us is actually just a projection of our own personal feelings. So the disappointment or shame or frustration we may feel about ourselves, we assume God must feel the same way toward us. This misunderstanding of how God see’s us then impacts every area of our lives.
The title of the second chapter of the book is called “The Imposter”. If you talk to anyone who has read the book, they will tell you that this chapter is a game changer and is deeply profound. I have almost this entire chapter underlined with stars and the word “OUCH!” written all over the margins. This chapter is so disarming. It took me forever to get through these 16 pages because of how much reflecting and soul searching I had to do. The imposter is the false self we’ve created who we present to the world, to God, and to ourselves. This person was created to protect us, to strengthen us, to give us value, and yet this person is a liar, it lives in fear, and it is constantly starving for outside acceptance and approval. This chapter forces you to look into the eyes of the imposter and have an honest conversation.
One question Manning asks in chapter 4, which may not be earth shattering to you, but was incredibly moving to me, was: “Do you honestly believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?” (p. 46) I know God loves me, and I can prove it through countless passages of scripture, but the thought that God really likes me, that cuts deep and is overwhelming because I know me, and there are plenty of days where I’m not sure I like me. My guess is you know that feeling too.
Another great and deeply challenging chapter is called “The Pharisee and the Child”. Manning calls his readers to confront the Pharisee within us all. “To deny the pharisee within is lethal. It is imperative that we befriend him, dialogue with him, inquire why he must look to sources outside the kingdom for peace and happiness.” (p. 68)
I could honestly go on and on about all the ways this book challenged me and encouraged me, but instead I’ll give you a few more of the countless quotes from the book that stood out to me:
- Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion. (p. 42)
- Whenever the gospel is invoked to diminish the dignity of any of God’s children, then it is time to get rid of the “so-called” gospel in order that we may experience the gospel. Whenever God is invoked to justify prejudice, contempt, and hostility within the body of Christ, then it is time to heed the words of Meister Eckhart: “I pray that I may be quit of God to find God.” Our closed human concepts of gospel and God can prevent us from fully experiencing both. (p.52)
- What makes the kingdom come is heartfelt compassion: a way of tenderness that knows no frontiers, no labels, no compartmentalizing, and no sectarian divisions. Jesus, the human Face of God, invites us to deep reflection on the nature of true discipleship and the radical lifestyle of Abba’s child. (p. 58)
I am so thankful for the depth of Brennan’s transparency and insight in Abba’s Child and I am so very thankful my dear friend had kept this book on my radar for so many years. I will be coming back to this book often.