It's become a yearly tradition to write to you, even though I know the chances are very good you will never see it. I hold true to my belief that God's Word is all we need and all we have. To study it and meditate on it, to see its uniqueness, that atheistic, evolutionist, rebellious, or other types of persons cannot see, is enlightening. But, there is a part of me that still wonders if one day, even if not now, you might get to see these. But, as I know the mask of pride and fallenness behind every word, action, and thought that comes from me, I'm not sure how that would be possible.
Still, I'm writing to you... just like you're there. Just like you see it. If nothing else, when people ask why I write "public" letters to you, I can just let them know the truth: it makes me reflect. It makes me pause and question how I'm living. It makes me think on things outside of this world, as you are now. It humbles me and reveals to me the tragic mistakes I make each year. It inspires me to walk afresh in the new year and do something revolutionary in this culture, something I'm so bad at so often: following Christ.
Pretty soon, we're having a niece. This also makes me reflect. The past three years, more than any, have been some of confusion to me. How do I point people to Christ when I'm so corrupt? How much do I admit to brothers and sisters about who I've been without scaring them away (and some have indeed run away)? How do I pick up my cross, leaving my baggage there and trusting that Christ has done away with my need to carry it? Carrying my cross seems a very light affliction, when He has already carried it before me, when He calls me to let go of everything else, and when He reveals to me what that obedience will bring. But, when I think about getting to see my niece at times and hopefully being a part of her life, when I think of the influence that my words and my actions might have upon her, what I want to do is run and hide.
To make my letter short, Dad, a lot is happening. The Lord is bringing friends in my life who encourage me to let go of the things I have loved more than Christ; a new job is making it possible to have some semblance of free time and to pursue greater things, assuming I use my time wisely; a new niece is making me consider my choices; a new church is reminding me that my putrid past pales very much in comparison to the forgiveness and mercy I find in Christ.
I hope to write next year with many more good things. Right now the only thing that matters to me is putting off sin and running after Christ. What I remember the most about you is how you always loved me no matter what. I have seen people who I thought were friends leave me, stop talking to me, ignore me, only to go back to their perfectly moral shell and version of Christianity to celebrate with those more righteous. But, I guess I'm glad the Lord came for the sick. He does call us to obedience. But He offers forgiveness and love time after time, and I can do nothing to purchase or buy it. And even though I hang my head, your love for me, Dad, reminds me of my true heavenly Dad, and of my Savior. After I've spent my time desiring the filthy troughs the world feeds on, after I've spent His good gifts on prostitutes, after I feel wasted and ashamed, then it seems--in an almost incomprehensibly ironic way--I am in the best possible condition to go outside the gates to Jesus Christ, to find Him there, and to release my burdens and my fears at His feet.
I don't play games with people, Dad. I love having fun, just like you did with your Texan humor. I love sarcasm and joking. I nearly had to apologize at the last get together with friends because sometimes I joke around too much. But, I don't pretend to be someone I'm not. I know you would be proud of me and love me however you found me. And, I miss that about you. You were becoming a best friend to me when you left. Maybe we never got there. But, if you had any comprehension of my activities on earth where you are, my hope would be that you know I've found a place of worship that pours grace upon those who come, that brings brothers and sisters together in confession and truth, and that spurs me on to godliness.
This is the story of grace. This is why I started calling my blog epekteinomai, from Philippians 3:13, to "strain forward" to Christ. Nothing else matters, ultimately. Not what people think. Not whether or not some pretty girl looks my way. Not paying off Sallie Mae. Not getting my "dream" job in this life.
I am thankful that the story of the prodigal son is a story that could have easily been on display at our household. If I had left you and stolen all your money, and I came back begging your forgiveness, I know I would have had the best from you, like always.
That's the story of grace that I want to display. As it has been given to me, so I hope I can give it to others. Thanks for being an example in that way.
I'll see you real soon.
PS: This song has had special meaning in my life: