A Hypothetical Letter to an Old Friend
Dear Old Friend,
I remember at first, after high school, I had this bridge-burning attitude. Like “I want to get the heck out of here and never come back.” I never wanted to see any of it again; that hypocritical school, the house that became a broken home, the people I’ve known since I was a child who never really knew me at all. From friends who betrayed my trust, to boys who broke my heart. There was the church who should have had some vision for my destiny, who should have supported me, but didn’t; only leaving me with a bitter spirit suspicious that all are hypocrites, and fearful that no one would ever protect me. I have realized that I sustained wounds that went deep.
The truth is, I want to be whole. I don’t want to be one of those “empty shell” people. I’ve had to face myself. And God. So much of what I grew up with was wrong. The way I thought about myself was wrong, but more importantly, the way I thought about God was wrong. I had to meet Him and realize He wasn’t like that. The healing was a dying all over again, and this was a death more painful than that of my childhood naivety and innocence. I’m learning that pain is a paradox. Pain is such vehicle of change, one way or another, but I want to be transformed.
I remember staying up late nights praying for you. It was like God wouldn’t leave me alone. After graduation, I spent the summer in an apartment in Europe, and I have these journal entries from waking up in the middle of the night to pray for you. I don’t know why. Maybe because no one else was rooting for you.
I think about David. He was the last guy anyone expected Samuel to anoint King. And Saul/Paul: the one killing Christians. Or Peter, the know-it-all disciple who denied Jesus when it came down to it. And I think about you. You’ve seen the hypocrisy. You’ve heard the propaganda. And you’ve watched people with a lot of zeal walk away from their faith with nothing left. There was no way you were going to buy some imitation. You are the perfect candidate. God has set you up.
I never hear anything about you. I wanted to call you, but I don’t know your number, and the opportunity never afforded itself to me. But now I’ll write everything I would say to your face if we still talked like we did so many years ago.
God is after you. Trust me, He’s relentless. He wants more than your Sundays and your Wednesdays, He wants more than your money. He wants more than your good works. He’s real. Everything we’ve heard for years that seemed so watered down and distant, so cliche… there’s more. He wants to be known by you. Personally, you! It’s not about simply getting clean, having a nice life, or meeting someone else’s expectations. There is a God, He is jealous for you, and He’s willing to do whatever it takes that you could know Him and be His. He has emotions. He speaks, He moves on your behalf, He’s powerful and He actually does all the things He said. He heals, He delivers, He fights… There is a God.
I could go on. It’s so hard to communicate through words sometimes, but I want you to know I’m ruined. I can’t go back to where I was. I’ve come too far. Where I never thought I’d love again, or grow again, He’s brought to life the dead places in my heart.
Psalm 66:12. Looking back on it, I see the significant of that verse: ” For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs… We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment. I will go into Your house, I will pay You my vows”
You are at a crossroads, and you cannot go back to business as usual. You need to discover the love of God. You need a community of believers who will walk with you into this discovery of what He’s like. You’re going to have to press hard. You’re going to have to to charge into your closets and pull out skeletons with tenacity. It may very well hurt like hell. You will have to tear down thoughts, attitudes, and habits that build strongholds. You may struggle to redefine yourself in the midst of peers that expect nothing of value from you saying, “What good can come from Nazareth?”
This is your challenge, and your invitation, old friend.