Dear, Friend –
I don’t know where quit to begin. My mind is rushing with thoughts at the moment and I feel a little bit like I’m drowning in them. The dam is about to break, so first, excuse me and second, hold on!
I’ve had drafts and revisions of this letter in my mind for weeks. Every time I thought about committing them to paper, I had a better excuse not to. Tonight I’m at the point where I cannot go to bed without doing it.
This monologue might better be served as an in-person discussion. I fully realize that thought. But you know me well enough to know that I can better express myself by writing…and well, I might cry if I saw your face as I said these things. No, scratch that. I would cry, and probably pretty hard. So, maybe this is better for both of us!
What am I alluding to, you ask? Get to the point, you say? What the heck is this all about, you wonder? Frankly, it’s about your life. Not just your “life” as, dare I say, trivial, as that may seem, but about your existence. Your daily living. Your purpose. Your story. Your freedom.
Do I have your attention yet???
We’ve known each other for years and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy and appreciate your presence in my life. You’ve been a wonderful person to me to laugh with in the good times and process with in the more difficult ones. You have always remained a source of encouragement. I can’t tell you what that means. I know we don’t use this word a lot these days, but I cherish you. And I’ve thought so many times of the letter you wrote to me last year on my birthday. You expressed how much you trust me. You told me that again recently. That fact means so much to me. I am so honored by it. We don’t get to spend a lot of face-to-face time together but I feel joy every time we do. I’m so grateful for how much our friendship has grown over the years. You are a blessing to me. In fact, I see so many reasons God has put you in my life. And that brings me to this point.
I’m not going to try and lay a sense of guilt or shame on you. I’m not even going to try and convict you or “save” you. Why would I? You already believe in God and Jesus. But what I am going to do is tell you what I want for you. I want you to know the fullness of Christ and live in His freedom.
I was working on a project with one of our common friends tonight and we were talking about values. These weren’t values that we thought were good, or even great. They were values that we’d die for. We fell on four: freedom, story, relationships and growth. Freedom means the ability that we have to fully recognize the weight and beauty of what Christ did for us on the cross and live with Him forever, starting now. Story means that I can understand how I am connected to God as well as everyone and everything else; my life has purpose and my actions affect the world around me. Relationships are important because life is lived best among people, those who do know Christ and even those who do not yet know Him. We chose growth because it’s a universal concept; everything living is growing. But it’s always a choice to grow in a healthy manner. These may not be the four words that two other people would use, which is perfectly fine, but we feel these words lay at the core of all the others. They are the reason we get up in the morning.
And as I thought through these individually and their connections to each other, I thought of you. Yes, my friend, I would die for you. I love you that much. I’m sorry if I haven’t made it that clear before now.
This may surprise you, but many people who love Christ as I do decide not to share Him with others. I don’t even think that it is a conscious choice. This isn’t at all because they are bad people. It’s usually because they are scared. Like everyone else walking around the planet, they are scared of rejection. I know, I’ve been there. Sometimes it is with strangers, but I think mostly it is with people they care about. They don’t want to lose that relationship because they value it. Seems almost ironic, doesn’t it? You don’t share something you love with someone you love because you are afraid of losing love.
When I originally started drafting this letter in my head a few weeks back I dwelt for a long time on the last paragraph. And I wasn’t afraid of losing your love or friendship. I just wanted to go at your pace. I wanted to tell you these things when you were at a place you could fully hear them. But for whatever reason, I feel God quickening that pace. I feel great urgency in gushing all of this to you as I am now. It cannot be contained any longer. Perhaps you are in a place to hear.
Here’s another paradox of sorts for you: I care so much about you that I’m willing to risk my relationship with you. That’s right. I’m willing to throw all those years of memories down the tubes because I love you that much. What do you think of that? My dear friend, I am desperate for you know Christ as I do. He is not a great man from a large book who lived a long time ago and did some awesome things. He is a living, breathing Savior. He endured separation from God, the Creator of the Universe, for me…and you. And He is literally dying to be in an intimate relationship with you. I hope this doesn’t sound too “out there” or anything. It isn’t meant to be. I just want you to understand the depth and weight involved in this process. Again, I know you believe in Him. But do you believe Him? Do you trust Him as you would me?
Let me give you a great example from my favorite movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz. I feel like most people, even many Christians, walk around stuck in the black and white of Kansas. After all, over 40% of the US population says they are Christian. How many truly live by that ideology, though? Wouldn’t it be an amazing place if they did? To this group, everything appears a little dull and lifeless, whether they realize it or not. There is good and there is bad. And there’s even a lot of gray to navigate, which is where we get stuck a lot. There is a routine to life and tasks to perform. But inside all of us, there is a desire to be over the rainbow – to know and live and be somewhere bigger than ourselves. It’s a beautiful place but it’s not quite attainable. And we know it’s not quit attainable because we are constantly trying to buy or do or see or feel more to get us over there. But all we can see is black, white and gray.
There is another side, though! When we fully understand who Christ is and who we are in Him, that is who He designed us to be and what purpose we are specifically to live out, we open the door. (Yes, it does usually take the cyclone to get us there!) And on the other side of that door is color like we’ve never seen or imagined! We get over the rainbow and we didn’t have to die to do it! Sure, it’s not heaven so there is still pain and suffering and hardship. But there is also a group who travels with us to encourage us along the way and make memories together. We do life together and we experience it more fully because we have a common purpose and we are not alone.
I think that Dorothy could be trying so hard to get back home because the other people she loved, her family, where stuck in black and white. She still saw how beautiful over the rainbow was, despite it not being exactly as she imagined. I think when she went back home she had a greater understanding for the black and white life, yet she carried the color in her heart. It had changed her. She grew in the process.
Maybe that’s all a bit of a stretch for you, but let’s roll with it, ok?
But that’s a little story of what I want for you. Color floods my heart and I dream for it to flood yours, too.
We’ve talked on a couple of occasions about some of the damage that’s been done to you by people who called themselves Christians, and within the walls of a church. My heart literally aches and my eyes fill up every time I stop to think about it. But all I can say is that I’m sorry. I would tell you a thousand times if that would simply fix it. However, what I am telling you with everything in me that is not the way Christ designed His Church. It should be a place of love, grace, mercy, compassion and Truth. It should be the expression and embodiment of who He is here on this earth. But as long as He allows imperfect people to become members, including myself, we are stuck with that predicament. All we can do is learn from the past, live in the present and look to the future.
I hope and pray that you have learned a different meaning of the Church from being around my friends and me. At least, that is what you said, and I am taking you at your word. I trust that you would tell me the truth. We are very broken and imperfect people, but we strive to be the Church that Christ calls us to be. I want you to see that there are other models out there. All are only replicas of the original, but each is trying in their own way to look like the masterpiece. I desire for you to more frequently be the Church with us.
So, I think I’m running out of thoughts, or at least words. I guess that leaves me with expectations…
I expect you to respond to this in whatever way works best for you. That may mean we talk about it, email about it, allude to it – or we don’t. I respect your choice 100%. After all, it’s yours to make. Please do not feel any pressure or obligation. I didn’t write it for that purpose. I wrote it to express my heart to you, as I feel God asked me to do, and that’s it.
There are also a few expectations you can have for me. The first is that, no matter how you respond, I will still love you as a dear friend. You may be very ready to talk about this or you may never be ready to talk about this. Either way is for you to decide. The second is that I will not bring this up again unless God asks me to. The ball is in your court. And the third is that, as I have done for years now, I will continue to pray for you. I pray for you because I genuinely care about you.
Ok, guess that’s about it. I’ll be seeing you soon, hopefully over the rainbow.