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“Fear Not” Says an Alcoholic Ex-Priest

Brennan Manning insisted “the God-revelation of Jesus” removes fear and worry. Yet, he also admitted to a fear of abandonment going back to his childhood.

Worse, at the end of his life, in his memoir All is Grace, Manning confessed: “I’ve been a priest, then an ex-priest. Husband, then ex-husband. Amazed crowds one night and lied to friends the next. Drunk for years, sober for a season, then drunk again.”

Can we trust the words of an alcoholic ex-priest? (Listen to me work through my emotions in next week’s podcast, “Soul Talks With Bill and Kristi Gaultiere.”)

We can certainly trust the words of Jesus on Brennan Manning’s lips! Recently, his daily Reflections for Ragamuffins ministered the peace of Christ to me:

  • Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust my Father’s love as I do. (John 14:1)
  • Do not fear, little flock. Your Father is pleased to embrace you in his Kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
  • “Look at how our Father feeds the birds and clothes the flowers. You don’t need to worry.” (Matthew 6:26-30)

To experience peace, we also need grace. That’s why the Apostle Paul in his letters likes to greet us with “Grace and peace to you!” Grace is God’s favor and power freely given to us.

The title “All is Grace” fits Brennan Manning’s life. Even his personal failures serve to magnify the grace of God to us. At the end of his life, he clung to his message of grace, repeating some of the quotes that made him famous:

  • My Father is very fond of me.
  • I am not measured by the good I do, but by the grace I accept.
  • God batters me with wave upon wave of His tender fury.
  • God loves me unconditionally, as I am and not as I should be!
  • God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Brennan had a way of putting words to what we all feel and need. By sharing his own Ragamuffin self with us, he helped us feel safe and to accept that we too are Ragamuffins.

Many times before or after ministry events, the self-proclaimed “Vagabond Evangelist” admits he holed himself up in a hotel and got drunk for days. He laid in his vomit, blacked out. Depressed. Filled with shame.

He even missed his mother’s funeral this way.

When he’d disappear his wife was worried sick. She didn’t know where he was and couldn’t get hold of him for many days at at time. Finally, she said, “Enough!” and she divorced him.

Standing at the cross of Christ where Brennan keeps leading us, who are we to judge?

What if you or I grew up as he did? Alcoholic grandfather, father, and brother. Abusive mother. Emotionally disconnected father. Early abandonment wounds triggered by the death of an only brother, being divorced, losing many friends.

What if we had his incredible gifts and enormous platform as a minister and yet always felt alone and abandoned, always on the edge of despair? Who is to say we wouldn’t be an alcoholic too?

Brennan Manning spent his last days at the cross of Christ, confessing his sins to God and to us and proclaiming God’s radical and unfailing grace for all Ragamuffins. May his great prayer of faith in Christ Jesus be ours as well:

“Abba, I belong to you.”


Listen to: Perfect Love Removes Fear
(The newest podcast of Soul Talks With Bill & Kristi Gaultiere)

Check out “Digging Deeper in God’s Word”!
(A new online video course by Bill & Kristi Gaultiere)

“This SOULworks course demonstrates the methods
I use each morning and teach to others.”
Rev. Dr. Jeff McCrory ~ Fuller Theological Seminary


(Bible verses are paraphrased by Bill Gaultiere. Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions by Brennan Manning, published by HarperOne in 1998, p. 294. All is Grace by Brennan Manning, published by David C. Cook in 2011, pp. 19, 22, 23, 3.)


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