My children, for about two years now, I have been writing letters to people I love. To respect their privacy, I will not post their names here in this open version of the letter, but some day, I will tell you who they are and what happened after they received the letter. What’s more important is that each of the open letters I will be posting over the next few weeks and months are letters prompted by the Holy Spirit. The words in them are words that flowed from me in a moment of silence and peace, focusing on what God would want me to say to these individuals, whom I love.
This first letter was sent on 11 February 2015 from San Pedro Sula, Honduras:
Greetings from Honduras. I was just praying, generally thanking and praising the Lord, and I asked him to bring to mind someone who I have neglected, someone who I have repeatedly thought about but not reached out to. Your name immediately came to mind. That was just a couple minutes ago.
So here I am, writing you. I’m not sure exactly what to say, so I’ll just speak from the heart.
I was so pleased to see you and spend time with you in New Orleans. Obviously, the occasion was less than ideal, but it was enjoyable to be with you all. Everyone has grown up so much! You and I are quickly becoming the grey hairs in the room… It makes me smile to think about all the times we’ve had occasion to spend time together; whether at a funeral or celebration, I’ve always appreciated our time together.
I know our lives have taken us in distinctly different directions, different paths. There was a time when we were more or less rockin’ and rollin’ on the same vibe – single, running hard, completely the master of our own time and schedule, and above all free from the weight of worldly responsibility. Those moments in my room with my old roommate at Hampden-Sydney College (HSC) were magic. I’ll never forget that time in our lives, never.
We’ve walked different paths since then, but I feel like we’ve never grown apart. Sure, there may be several months that pass w/o a conversation, or even an email between us, but that doesn’t diminish the love I feel for you as a brother – indeed the closest think I have, have ever had, or will ever have to a true brother.
From brother to brother, then, I want to tell you that I was nervous at her funeral, when I gave my piece at the service. I was not nervous for speaking in front of people but for what I would say and how folks would react. It’s not every day that I pronounce publicly that I choose to follow Jesus. And though I’m still learning what exactly that means, I am profoundly grateful for His grace and forgiveness in my life. The strength I find in prayer, in communion with others on the same path, and in the wisdom and truth I find in the Bible is something today that I can’t imagine living without – especially when I’m in places like Honduras where life is cheap and by all observational accounting, it seems as though the devil rules the roost down here.
Friend, I don’t know where you are with your beliefs, with God. We’ve never had this conversation, and I guess I should have asked you long ago. But I didn’t, partially out of my own fears of rejection, partially because the distance between conviction and action is often defined by procrastination, of which I am guilty when it comes to sharing with you how I’ve gone from the young man you knew at HSC to the man sitting here in a hotel room in Honduras writing you this letter.
There was once an atheist who said he respected Christians for their willingness to share what they thought was an absolute version of the truth. If you see that an oncoming bus is about to hit someone, he said, why wouldn’t you rush to push them out of the way? In other words, if we believe and know something about this life and what happens after death, why wouldn’t we tell others about it?
My simple answer is that I don’t yet have that courage, or faith. Both are growing, but as I step through life and the experiences that grow my faith, normally as I look over my shoulder at what God brought me through, I am quick to recognize that I get weak in the acute moments when God asks me to stand up for Him. Which brings me back to that short message I shared at her funeral service.
That day, I did obey. I did tell the truth about what I believe, despite what my head told me how others would receive it. There were people in the room who were vigorously nodding in agreement, but I don’t know them. I don’t love them. The people I know and love were sitting in the front two rows in the middle. I looked at them often as I was talking, hoping to see some light of acceptance and recognition of the truth I was sharing. I still don’t know where most of our family rests when it comes to talking about Jesus, God, and faith, and I don’t know what God has planned for any of them. What I do know is that He has told me to reach out to you.
In all my travels, I am often confronted with people who have hard, black hearts. They are ruthless, aggressive, and down right unhappy people who, I guess, figure there is a modicum of pleasure to be found in ensuring that everyone around them feels as much hurt or anger as they do in their heart. In the past two years or so, as I have invariably dealt with some of these people, my heart has quietly but forcibly reminded me that Jesus died for those people too. As astounding as it sounds, everyone on this earth, independent of who they are or how they act or what they did, deserves forgiveness and a shot a redemption.
I’ve come to learn that the Bible defines grace as receiving something you do not deserve. Mercy, another word often found near grace in the Bible, may be defined as not receiving something you do deserve.
God offers both to anyone who would come to Him with an open heart, an open mind.
For me, it took a long time before I truly understood what that meant. It took me many years of introspection, of investigation, of asking and listening, but at the end of it all, of this objective investigation into the truths offered in scripture I found belief and faith, which holds me upright today, even when the chaos of this place swirls around me like a dark fog that threatens to envelop my sense of what is right and wrong.
Let me close here by telling you that I want to be a part of your life in a more intentional way. I don’t want to be someone who thumps a bible and forces anyone to believe, but I do know that God loves you and desperately wants you to know Him, completely and fully. I would be honored and humbled to share with you how that process happened for me, and talk to you about where you are in your faith, and if you’re willing, talk to you about the sort of questions and answers that led me to where I am today.
Friend, above all I want you to know that I love you. Even if you wholeheartedly reject everything above, I will never stop loving you. I will never judge you, and I would never turn away your call for help or support if you were ever to need it.
I think it’s unlikely that you would completely reject my offer to explore God with you because I know you have an open mind, and an open heart – more so than I ever have going back to our college years.
Either way, I look forward to hearing from you when you are ready to exchange messages over email or find time to talk on the phone. Until then, be well and know that as much as I could ever claim to love you as a brother, God already loves you more, like a son.