Several authors and editors I respect counseled me not to write the book as quickly as I did; they urged me to wait two or three years and put some distance between me and the expedition in order to gain some crucial perspective. Their advice was sound, but in the end I ignored it – mostly because what happened on the mountain was gnawing my guts out. – John Krakauer, Into Thin Air
It inevitably takes an entire Monday to travel from Denver to Belmar, New Jersey…a descent from mile high to sea level which meant that most of my visits with Brennan Manning began on a Tuesday. Ours was an arranged friendship, that of author and collaborator. I would spend three or four days with him kicking up the dust of memory, helping him sift a memoir. I would return home to altitude and then descend weeks later and do it again. My initial visions of this reel starred me, a young Mitch Albom of sorts, and Brennan, the aging Morrie, buoyed by a haunting Thomas Newman score. But Brennan Manning is not Morrie…he’s more like Everest.
I had been warned going in, both from the right – ‘Manning’s a liar’ – and the right of right – ‘Manning’s a Merton-loving universalist heretic priest.’ However loud the soundings, in the end I ignored them. Why? Improbable situations always drip a sweeter blood.
I wrote the goal in the front of a fresh Moleskine: to assist with ‘the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images’ (Joan Didion). I then turned the page and set myself to not just hear, but listen. What I witnessed time after time in his spartan apartment was the texture of a grace not easy or cheap, of which Manning is often blisteringly accused. It was something else altogether, something even beyond the pale ‘ragamuffin’ moniker, for seriously, who can resist a cute wittle wagamuffin? That’s right, not many who have a pulse. No, what I befriended on those Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays, and even an occasional Friday, was a collection of rag and bone, a man riven by a vulgar grace…a grace that both amazes and offends, often in the same life, often in the same breath.
Tuesdays with Brennan have caused me to press on now further shorn of an easy God. And that is precisely the reason we’ve listened to Brennan Manning all these years. His life is and has been a testament to a grace greater than his sins and ours…a love of Jesus so deep, deep, vast, unmeasured, boundless, and yes, free…a feral, elemental fury that blows where it wills and is generous beyond our fault.
I am beginning to understand. Tuesdays’s child is full of grace. But to understand is to tremble.