This letter is written with several specific friends in mind, but is ultimately meant for all my friends to read. I hope that in these words you will hear my heart, because I am sharing what is most important to me.
You know who you are. We’ve had so much fun together, don’t you agree? I hope that years down the road when you remember me, it will make you smile. I hope that you remember me as a friend that you could count on and someone who was always willing to listen. In fact, there are a lot of things that I hope that you remember about me, but I fear that in many ways I let the days and years of our friendship go by without sharing with you what I have always wanted to say. If you have a few moments, I want to share my heart with you before another day in this all too brief life goes by.
I want you to know that I love you. I hope you knew that already, but in case you have any doubts, here is the cold hard truth. You matter so much to me, and I haven’t always been the best person at expressing that. There are some feelings that I wear on my sleeve, but that is one sentiment that I hold too closely inside. Sometimes I am afraid that if I outright said those words, I would probably start crying because they are exactly how I deeply feel about you. I wish you knew how special you are.
I’ve always made no bones about my faith. You know what I believe. In fact, everyone knows what I believe. I know that in many ways you didn’t understand my passion, and you couldn’t resolve the doubts and questions in your mind. I fear that I may have added to your disbelief and gave you a reason to question God because I approached you with a hard-headed theology and left out the most important thing I wanted you to know: I love you. I could say that I was young and stupid, but I am not sure that is a sufficient answer for you. I’m sorry if I made you feel that in order to be a part of my life you had to agree with my beliefs. I never wanted you to change for me. I love you just the way you are.
You see, facts and morals are easy for me to talk about, because in those conversations I don’t have to be vulnerable. However, the days for theological arguments are long past in our friendship. Today I choose to be vulnerable with you, because when it comes down to it, some things are just not that important. So many of the things that I have “preached” about really don’t matter at all. If you were to ask me, “What is the most important thing in the world to you?”, this is how I would respond.
I want you to know that no matter what you do, say, or believe that my love is unconditional toward you. I will never see you as anything less because we disagree. I will never hate you if you hurt me. I may not agree with your lifestyle or the choices you have made but that will never affect my love for you or how I respect you. I hope that I have never given you reason to think otherwise.
The most important thing in the world to me is my faith. I can’t stand religious people either, but I don’t follow a religion and I certainly hope that I’m not religious. I follow a God who loved you and me so much that He gave His life to show it. Now I give my life to show it to you. I want you to know Him so badly that it hurts. You see, He found me in the depths of my despair. He found me when I had nothing left and He gave me everything to live for. I am not talking about a list of facts and rules that I live my life by. It’s more than that. I have fallen in love with the One who has truly romanced my heart, and I just can’t keep it to myself.
More than anything I long for you to fall in love with Jesus. I want you to know how incredible it is to know Him. It’s not about church, and it never was. It’s about a God who created you, who knows everything about you and is absolutely crazy about you. Knowing Him has completely changed my life. I don’t want to do the things that I did before. My life was so empty and meaningless before I knew Him. I spent years knowing about Him and doing the church thing, but I missed the completely transforming truth about the whole thing: God loves us and He has a straight up amazing purpose for our lives.
Sometimes I think it’s hardest for us kids who grew up in church. Almost everyone that I have known who looks at this Christian thing and doesn’t get it grew up in the church. I understand that. It took a really long time for me to get it. I may not have walked away from God or explored other options openly, but I had my doubts. When it came down to it, I had a hard time connecting with it. I was indoctrinated a certain way and I resented it, and then suddenly it dawned on me that the rest of the world wasn’t like that. I’d be lying if I said that I did not question too.
I got so sick of church. I think I mostly couldn’t stand it because it seemed that almost everything that happened there was meaningless and a complete waste of time. Surely if everything they say about God is true, then He wouldn’t be spending 30 hours a week bouncing continuously from activity to activity and program to program. And what about the people there? They don’t even like each other and they fight over the stupidest things. Growing up in the church, I had a front row seat to hypocrisy and disillusionment and it really made me question what the point of it all was. They talked about a God who so loved the world, yada yada yada, and then in the next breath tore each other apart. For goodness sake, I don’t want to be a part of that.
I had to take a step away from the drama to clear my head. In many ways, I don’t think I’ll be a part of church like I used to be, and I don’t really want to go back. So many Christians have lost their focus and ultimately their faith. It became all about them and how they wanted things to be. What a pointless and empty way to live. I read the Bible and thought about the life that Jesus lived and wondered why in the world I didn’t know people like that. I was surrounded by those who claimed to follow Him, but they didn’t live what they preached and they made excuses for it. They focused their theology around the things they wanted to hear, and they would talk about things like caring for the poor and helping the needy, but when it happened, it was the exception rather than the norm. Often it was done in such a way that through advertisement it seemed more like they wanted to be praised for their humanitarian efforts rather than simply doing it because that’s what Jesus said to do. I was a part of this. At the end of the day, I’d feel good about helping people, but in the big picture I wondered if anything I did really mattered.
What’s the point? I could live my entire life doing good things and sacrificing my health and sanity in my attempts to make the world a better place. But in the end, I have to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I could say, “because that’s what the Bible says to do” or “that’s what a Christian is supposed to be like”, but is being a Christian about living a good life and sacrificing everything? That’s what I thought for a long time. I should be this way or I should be that way. Yeah, I heard God loves us and that He loves the whole world, but it seemed that the people who talked about God loving the world were the ones who acted like they wanted to attack people with Bibles and march like an army through the nations until “everyone believed”. I didn’t really understand the concept of love, but that sure isn’t the way I wanted someone to love me. And ultimately, all if it left me feeling pretty empty inside, like I was missing something. Indeed, I was.
Jesus said a lot of crazy things in His life on earth that don’t seem to make much sense. He was never in Rome, but He definitely rocked the boat. In fact, He continues to rock the boat. The problem is, most people aren’t in the boat so they’re missing it all. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I am drawn to this crazy guy who claimed to be the Son of God. There’s something about Him that’s different. There’s something about the way He loved. He lived every moment in life and death pouring His love into everyone who saw Him. He touched the untouchables, spent His time caring for prostitutes and despised people, and confided His heart and His mission to a bunch of fishermen and tax collectors. If you were on a mission to save the world, would you have done it that way? I think not.
Jesus knew that the church leaders and influential people of the day had a hard time getting it. He also knew that when His love truly touches the heart of someone, the world around them is never the same. So He went to the ones whom everyone considered to be nobodies, who didn’t know their left hand from their right hand and certainly couldn’t change the world. Through His life, Jesus showed everyone that love is what He came to give, and that a life overflowing in love is worth living. It cost Him everything, and anyone who has lived like that since has given everything as well (not to mention everyone thought they were crazy too). However, time after time when reading the Bible and the stories of the martyrs who have stood in unwavering testimony to its cause, I am convinced of the truth proclaimed in Scripture. I have tested God, and He has proven Himself above and beyond what I asked of Him. Now He asks me to give Him my life, and I pray that He would give me sufficient courage to do so.
Why am I telling you this? I am telling you this because I want you to understand why I have chosen to live the kind of life I am living. I want you to know what really matters to me. If you asked me what the passion of my heart is, I would tell you that it is loving God and loving others. It’s not that I want to go out and do away with all the evil on the planet. I am giving my life to caring for the broken, but it’s not the desire to live a good life that motivates me to do that. It’s the love that God has shown to me that changed my life. It’s the memory of the pit that He rescued me from and the challenging but fantastic journey that we have taken from that point to where I am today that overwhelms me. I can’t believe that someone would love me and want me, but God has showed me in so many ways that He does. If it seems that I am being “preachy” right now, it is because I have found something so wonderful and I want you to have it too. I want you to know what life can be like when lived in the presence of a God who loves us extravagantly. Because I love you so much, I don’t want you to miss it. I don’t want you to live in the emptiness that you have been living in. There’s so much more to life than that.
I don’t ever want to be the kind of friend that pressures you or makes you feel like I am imposing my beliefs on you. I hate it when people do that to me. I just want you to know. In all our times together, we’ve talked about everything from our favorite color to the boys we like, and I’m not saying that’s not important. What is important to you is important to me as well. I’m just not very good about communicating to you what’s in my heart. My faith isn’t just a thing I do or believe; it’s everything to me. If you want to know me, you’ll have to know how much my relationship with God matters to me. It is the driving force of my life.
I hope I didn’t drive you away from me by sharing with you the deepest part of me. Not everyone can handle that. I just wanted to tell you these things before another day goes by. None of us knows when a certain day will be our last. Heaven forbid that this is my last day, I want you to know how much I love you. I want you to know what matters to me. I want you to know me, and I hope that by knowing me that you will come to know Christ. However, even if you don’t, that will never change who you are to me and how much I care about you. You have made such a difference in my life.