If a man would learn to pray, let him go to sea.
Brennan Manning was a recovering alcoholic, a former Franciscan priest, and a man who had taught seminarians, spoken in huge, packed venues, lived in a cave, worked with the poor in Spain, and ministered to shrimpers in Alabama. He also worked in one of the only "leper colonies" in the United States.
It was during his time working on the shrimping boats when he learned the full meaning of that phrase, "If a man would learn to pray, let him go to sea" -- especially when his boat got caught in a furious storm that almost took his life and the lives of those with him.
Yet when he described God's longing for us, his experience at sea was the analogy he chose. When he wrote "furious," he did not mean it in the sense of "extreme rage" but in the meaning applied to extreme weather: an intense concentration of overwhelming energy.
120 mph winds.
Towering ocean swells.
Unfathomable and, most importantly, unstoppable power.
This is God's ferocious love for us.
Earlier in Manning's life before he went to sea, he attended a silent retreat in which he meditated on one verse for 30 days in silence:
"I am my beloved's, and His desire is for me" (Song of Solomon 7:10ff, NASB).
The more he meditated on this verse -- day after day in silence for a month -- the more evident God's furious longing became. When the retreat ended, he found that his inner life had been remodeled. His spirit had stepped out of his dingy house of earthly thinking and endless insecurities and taken refuge in a mighty, invincible tower: the safety of God's unstoppable love.
Abba, help us take refuge in your love. Help us to consume Your Word -- 'I am my beloved's, and His desire is for me' -- until it becomes our sustenance and our identity.
The late Brennan Manning (1934-2013) wrote a book, published in 2009, called The Furious Longing of God. This blog series will go through the book, meditate on selections from it, and give the reader an in-depth look into one of the most powerful Christian books to have come out in recent years.