Sending and receiving letters has always been a source of great joy for me. Recently, I've found letter-writing to be a helpful tool for sifting through complex ideas and reflecting on confounding lived experiences—regardless of whether or not the letter actually gets mailed. Here's one I recently wrote to a friend who's processing through some big, bold spiritual questions. I share it here not to impose a belief structure on you, dear reader, but rather to suggest the way in which writing often has the power to help us discover and expand what's most alive within us—spaces we may not have been aware before we started to write. As the beloved Henri Nouwen states: "To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know." Here's to unknowing.
It was great seeing you yesterday even though the time together was entirely too brief! Be that as it may, I'm always encouraged when friendships with certain people seem to pick back up just where they left off as if no time has passed. It was lovely to discover that our friendship is one like that. As I was lying in bed late this morning, something came over me that I feel prompted to share. I admit I was surprised and somewhat saddened to hear you've been wrestling with your faith. I've been there too and I know it can often feel like a dark and lonely place. I hope that you continue to surround yourself with good, compassionate people who are open to sharing their wisdom while letting you be in this foggy space without judgment. I'm sure those people will continue to emerge for you, but if they don't it's really no matter because questions of faith are between you and god anyway.
Your longing for deeper, more meaningful answers to the question, "Why follow Jesus?" prompted me to think about that question more myself. If you'll allow me, I'd like to share some of that with you now: I want to believe in a god who gets low; a god who meets us where we are despite how messed up, whiney, and impossible we humans can sometimes (all the time?!) be. I want to know a god who, like the Dad of the Year, offers endless love, invitation and encouragement even when we keep getting it wrong. I want to celebrate a god who declares, "It is finished!" A god who says, "It's done, stop striving, stop worrying, stop struggling, you are good, you don't have to be perfect, I love you, just be." Above all else, I want to know this god who says every human life is beautiful and valuable. I want to know this god who proclaims all creation to be deeply sacred and interdependent. I want to know this god who assures us that beneath the pain of this life—with all it's heartbreak, cancer and acne—that there's a bigger story of restoration unfolding. And finally, I want to know this god who longs to know us right back and longs for us to enjoy this life and this relationship with him. This is a god who gives us sunsets on Easter—not to shame us back to church, but just because sunsets are one of the most perfect and beautiful things are eyes can see. I don't understand it, but I want it. I want to be united with this divine creator in a way that is supremely relational, not intellectual.
I don't share this to convince you of any belief structure or to coax you back into a box you don't desire to belong. I share it because I believe, like it or not, that this god used our conversations at a wedding banquet in Nashville to remind me why I believe what I believe and to strengthen that belief even more. He used you friend! It makes no sense. But that's a god I want to know and follow—a god who flips logic upside down to accomplish giant things in seemingly small ways. What a divine mystery.