Last Friday, someone I really admire passed away. And I don’t quite know what to do about it. I feel uncomfortable grieving, to be honest, because I didn’t really know the fellow. But, man, it’s like he could see right through me.
My college pastor used to talk about this phenomenon he dubbed “an author mentor.” It’s the relationship that forms between reader and writer when you read the book of a particular person and it’s almost as if their words are advice, guidance, an encouragement to do things differently, a challenge to change – much like the idealistic relationship between mentor and mentee.
This idea makes total sense to me because I read books like I drink water: often and quickly. But some books stick with you, they help open your eyes to see yourself or the world in a new, better way.
Brennan Manning was/is my author mentor.
I first was introduced to his writing in a high school bible study that I rarely attended (and back then I barely skimmed what we were suppose I have read a mere 10 before our meeting time). But when his words slapped me in the face and shook my soul, I was a freshman in college. This upperclassmen girl befriended me and asked me to read through Abba’s Child with her – and I’ll never be the same. I’ve read nearly every book he’s written, and the way he writes about Jesus is like a river of grace – it drenches you to the point where you’re not sure if you can remember being dry ever again.
I even almost met him once, this legend of a man, wrought in refinement and humility and an intimate knowledge of grace. I heard he was going to be speaking at Azusa Pacific University where my friend Daisie went to school, and without a second thought I booked my flight. I had to meet this man, to thank him! The night before, however, Daisie called me and told me they had cancelled it, that he had fallen ill. I’ve kept kept my eye on his speaking calendar for years, but he didn’t ever have an upcoming engagement again. I never did get to meet him.
I learned what intimacy with the Father means through Brennan’s words. I learned about trusting Him when it makes no sense and costs you everything. I learned about the weight of shame and the freedom of forgiveness. I learned about acceptance of imperfection and the brokenness of alcoholism.
There’s been all these posts popping up about the impact Brennan’s words have had on people’s lives, but I ran across one by Donald Miller, another author I really admire, that I really wanted to share.
Don met Brennan. He wrote a post that describes Brennan’s friendship with Shel Silverstein, another author who’s words (and pictures) have really impacted my life. As a kid, I grew up reading Shel Silverstein. Where The Sidewalk Ends, The Missing Piece Meets The Big O, and The Giving Tree are books I’ve read well over a hundred times.
Miller retells a story he says Brennan told many times about Shel Silverstein.
“What many people don’t know about that story is that Brennan Manning, who passed away on Friday of last week, and Shel Silverstein met when they were young and according to Manning, stayed in touch. Later, after Shel began to write and Manning became a priest, they had a conversation about God and God’s love. Manning asked Silverstein what he thought God’s love felt like. Silverstein thought about it for a while but had no answer. Much later, Silverstein got in touch with Manning and gave him a copy of The Giving Tree saying the book was his answer to Manning’s question.”
With that story fresh in my mind, it seems fitting to say goodbye to a man whom I admire, whose work and living – having never met him face to face – has permanently changed my life with the words of Shel Silverstein:
Thank you, Brennan. Your words made a difference.