In a conversation with my wife last night, she shared with me a small excerpt from a book by Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God. The excerpt contained a personal experience Manning, a former Franciscan priest, had with a woman in a leper colony in Louisiana, an experience that speaks to the intimate and intense level of passion which God has. And later in this post, I will share this incredible personal experience Manning had.
I believe it is the common reality within the church that God is displayed as this cold and calculating type of being. God reasons things out before acting. One could get the picture of God listing the pros and cons of each option, weighing them, and then making a decision. God is portrayed as very rational. Could this be the case because being rational and being deliberate are often consider two of the higher qualities of a person? And since humanity was made in God’s image, isn’t it then reasonable to state that those qualities considered of the highest order would be God’s as well? It very well could be an example of humanity making God in it’s image.
The problem with this is that the Bible numerous times speaks to the passions of God. God is passionate. That must not be diminished. Consider Jesus’ time while here on earth. Numerous times, the Gospel writers tell us about Jesus being moved by passion. Consider Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem in Matthew 23. What about John 11 when he wept while being at Lazarus’ tomb? What about the clearing of the money changers in the temple?
What must be remembered is that God is passionate. His passion drives Him. His love, as well as Jesus’ love, was so passionate that He sent, and Jesus’ came, to give up his life for those who had rebelled against and run away from him. His passion for us drives Him to desire to be in a white-hot relationship with us.
But that passion which drives God, other than found in wrath, is rarely a true point of emphasis. It might be given lip-service, but not much more. And unfortunately, it is very difficult to understand God’s character, nature, and His activity without truly grasping the reality and depth and intensity of God’s passion.
Manning, in another place, speaks of something Jesus said to him that speaks to the passion that drives Him. Manning was spending time in seclusion. Jesus came and said, “For love of you, I left my Father’s side. I came to you who ran away from me…”
We must not dismiss or diminish the white-hot passion that drives God, for it is that same passion that drives Him in His relationship with us.
Here’s the story about the woman in the leper colony as recounted by Randy Patrick in http://www.thenewerworld.com/2013/05/23/brennan-manning-and-the-meaning-of-grace/.
“Manning was working in a leper colony near Baton Rouge, and a nurse came running to him to tell him one of the patients, Yolanda, was dying and needed a priest.
Once, he wrote, this Mexican-American woman had been “stunningly beautiful,” but Hansen’s disease had ravaged her face and body so that she was hideous. She had been abandoned by her husband and utterly rejected by society and her family. But not by God.
It had been raining that day, but after he anointed her with oil, Manning said, the room was filled with brilliant light, and he looked at Yolanda, and she was radiant.
“Oh, Father,” she said, “I am so happy.”
He asked her why, and she said “the Abba of Jesus just told me that he would take me home today.”
Brennan began to weep and asked her what the Abba (Father) had said to her.
She repeated these words:
‘Come now, my love. My lovely one, come. For you, the winter has passed, the snows are over and gone, the flowers appear in the land, the season of joyful songs has come. The cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. Come now, my love, my Yolanda, come. Let me see your face. And let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is beautiful. Come now, my love, my lovely one, come.’
Except for her name, the words were from the Song of Solomon.
Six hours later, Yolanda died. That same day, Manning learned that she was illiterate. She had never read the Bible, or any book, in her life, and she had never heard those words from him. He was undone.”
There’s the white-hot passion of God on display. May that same passion drive us.