Earlier this year I started reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. I finally managed to finish it on holiday last week. Don’t assume that the length of time I spent reading it means that it wasn’t good – it really was. There have been so many other things going on this year that I’ve had a lot less time to read than I normally would and I ended up putting it down for weeks at a time without touching it. Anyway, I digress.
This was one of those books you can really get your teeth into. I have parts underlined on almost every page. There is loads of food for thought and it’s not just jelly and ice cream food it’s a whopping great steak that you really have to chew over. It’s well worth the chewing though ’cause it’s so refreshing and satisfying.
What I’ll do is give you some of the little nuggets that I took out of each chapter. I reckon you could read it and get something different though. It has so much to say.
Come out of hiding
The first chapter talks about our view of ourselves and our assumptions about how God views us. It talks about our tendency to hide our true selves from others and from God (there’s that mask again!) and even to begin to accept our portrayed self as reality. God desires that we come out of hiding and realise that we are safe with him.
Christians who remain in hiding continue to live the lie… We cling to our bad feelings and beat ourselves with the past when what we should do is let go… But when we dare to live as forgiven men and women, we join the wounded healers and draw closer to Jesus. (p29)
In this chapter Manning talks about the image that we portray in order to be accepted and approved of by others. This false self has a ‘perfect’ image and is driven to perform rather than to live by grace. The imposter is a liar.
This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy. (Quoting Thomas Merton, p37)
In contrast to the imposter, the beloved, is our true self. Our real and only true identity as one loved by God, ‘not (loved because of our) works, so that no one can boast’ (Eph 2:9). The beloved lives in the present presence of God and only in grasping this identity is able to touch others.
When I allow God to liberate me from unhealthy dependence on people, I listen more attentively, love more unselfishly, am more compassionate and playful. I take myself less seriously, become aware that the breath of the Father is on my face and that my countenance is bright with laughter in the midst of an adventure I thoroughly enjoy. (p58)
Just that one quote inspires me. I want to be that person. To be completely free to be the person God made me to be and to rest assured that even in my imperfection Abba loves me and will use me to show His love to others – not in a way that burdens but out of the overflow of His heart for me.
Have you ever noticed how annoying predictive text can be? Every time I want to type ‘Abba’s’ it wants to correct it to ‘ABBA’s’ or ‘Anna’s’ 😝. It’s driving me nuts!!
Anyway back to the book. This chapter focuses on God’s indiscriminate love for His kids and Jesus example of growing intimacy with the Father and compassion for humanity. It develops the idea of how we live out the gospel and build His kingdom as a result of living out our true identity. There are several parts of this chapter that I’d love to quote but this one about the unknown struggles that even those we disagree with or even disapprove of is a little gem.
The heartfelt compassion that hastens forgiveness matures when we discover where our enemy cries. (p69)
Just chew over that for a minute. I feel like we would all be less judgmental if we could only let that concept take root in our hearts.
The Pharisee and the Child
Jesus did not die at the hands of muggers, rapists or thugs. He fell into the well-scrubbed hands of deeply religious people, society’s most respected members. (p80)
Not too surprisingly, the chapter about the Pharisee focuses on our tendency towards hypocrisy. None of us wants to think of ourselves as a Pharisee but if we are brutally honest about it I doubt anyone can say that they have never been judgemental or refused to show mercy. We feel justified when we look at someone else’s actions and decide based on our own experiences and backgrounds or legalism that they are at fault. Yet Jesus (the only man who was truly perfect) brought a message of mercy and grace.
In contrast the child in this chapter ‘delights in the relentless tenderness of God.’ The child falls down over and over but then picks herself up, dusts herself down and tries again; knowing that her Abba still loves her and delights in her efforts to keep running towards Him. The child is aware of her own failings and reaches out to help others who have fallen along the way. Jesus is pretty clear that it is this child-like relationship with our Abba that he desires in us.
‘Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in.’ Matt 18:3 TPT
Unless we reclaim our child we will have no inner sense of self and gradually the imposter becomes who we really think we are. (p94)
An awareness of the resurrected Christ banishes meaninglessness … helps us to see our lives as all of one piece, and reveals a design never perceived before. (p99)
This chapter spoke to me about the reality of Jesus presence in our lives as He walks with us through the valleys and on the mountain tops. He is living and active in our day to day and we need to be aware of Him. Our hope and our ability to stand during difficult times and our ability to endure sadness and suffering are all connected to our consciousness of Christ’s present risenness in our lives and it is this that shapes us and transforms us into His image.
Resurrection power enables us to engage in the savage confrontation with untamed emotions, to accept the pain, receive it, take it on board, however acute it may be. And in the process we discover that we are not alone, that we can stand fast in the awareness of present risenness and so become fuller, deeper, richer disciples. We know ourselves to be more than we previously imagined. In the process we not only endure but are forced to expand the boundaries of who we think we really are. (p105)
The Recovery of Passion
I love the title of this chapter. I feel like passion is so important and life giving and too many of us lose it or have it knocked out of us for one reason or another. The story of the man who found treasure in a field and sold everything he had to buy the field and get it is an illustration of the treasure that Jesus is and how desperately we should run after Him and His Kingdom.
The recovery of passion begins with the recovery of my true self as the beloved. If I find Christ I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him. This is the goal and purpose of our lives. John did not believe that Jesus was the most important thing; he believed that Jesus was the only thing. (p123)
The pursuit of an intimate relationship with our Saviour and Lover which throws aside self-consciousness and is all about our present response to Him is what our lives should be consumed with.
Fortitude and Fantasy
As you know I’ve been inclined to people pleasing in the past – trying to keep the peace and make everyone happy; to do what was expected of me. Manning encourages us to ‘accept our core identity as Abba’s child’ and to be true to who we are whatever others think. He also talks about the balance between being and doing and not raising the importance of one over the other as we can see what someone truly believes by the way they behave.
When we stand on our own two feet and claim responsibility for our unique self, we are growing in personal autonomy, fortitude, and freedom from the bondage of human approval. (p137)
The Rabbi’s Heartbeat
In the final chapter the greatness and unconditional nature of God’s love is unfolded. Allowing our minds to be engaged and our hearts affected by this great love, confessing our sins and humbling ourselves and allowing Abba to love us where we are brings freedom. Aligning ourselves with His heart and living out love and compassion and forgiveness for others is what should drive us.
Wise men and women have long held that happiness lies in being yourself without inhibitions. Let the Great Rabbi hold you silently against His heart. In learning who He is, you will find out who you are: Abba’s child in Christ our Lord. (p166)
I hope this encourages you, maybe to read the book but if not at least to drop the mask and pursue Abba knowing that He loves you just as you are.
‘But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly!’ Rom 5:8 TPT