Posted by Brennan Manning on 21 September 2016

I will never forget a retreat experience years ago in the Midwest. It was a rather large gathering, about 7000 people. Each night’s service was followed by the invitation for healing prayer; I would go into a side room and meet with those who felt compelled to come. On one particular night, the line extended well beyond midnight and after finishing, I went straight to bed, not even taking my clothes off I was so exhausted. About three o’clock in the morning, I heard a rap on the door and a squeaky little voice: Brennan, can I talk to you?

I opened the door to a 78 year-old nun. And she began to cry.

Sister? What can I do for you?

We found two chairs in the hallway and her story began.

I’ve never told anyone this in my entire life. It started when I was five years old. My father would crawl into my bed with no clothes on. He would touch me there and tell me to touch him there; he said it’s what our family doctor said we should do. When I was nine, my father took my virginity. By the time I was twelve, I knew of every kind of sexual perversion you read about in dirty books. Brennan, do you have any idea how dirty I feel? I’ve lived with so much hatred of my father and hatred of myself that I would only go to communion when my absence would be conspicuous.

In the next few minutes, I prayed with her for healing. Then I asked her if she would find a quiet place every morning for the next thirty days, sit down in a chair, close her eyes, upturn her palms, and pray this one phrase over and over:

Abba, I belong to you.

It’s a prayer of exactly seven syllables, the number that corresponds perfectly to the rhythm of our breathing.

As you inhale – Abba. As you exhale – I belong to you.

Through her tears she agreed: Yes, Brennan, I will.

One of the most moving and poetic follow-up letters I’ve ever received came from this sister. In it she described the inner healing of her heart, a complete forgiveness of her father, and an inner peace she’d never known in her 78 years. She concluded her letter with these words:

A year ago, I would’ve signed this letter with my real name in religious life – Sister Mary Genevieve. But from now on, I’m Daddy’s little girl.

Beware, this is not sloppy sentimentality or indulgent wishful thinking. But rather a woman who dared to pray in the child-like trust and deep reverence that Jesus said would mark a disciple and in doing so discovered the furious love of her Abba.
The greatest gift I’ve ever received in my life in Jesus is the Abba experience. I can only stutter and stammer about the life changing power of the Abba encounter.

My name is Brennan Manning and I’m Daddy’s little boy.

[Taken from ‘The Furious Longing of God’ by Brennan Manning, published by David C Cook, reused with permission.]

 

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