Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Open Letter To God On The Occasion Of My Sixtieth Birthday

An Open Letter From Me To God...

Dear Unfathomably Huge, Mind Alteringly Loving, and Shockingly Supportive Heavenly Father...

There is so much I want to say and so few keystrokes within which to say it.  If I were to attempt to mention all of the things I would like to thank you for my computer memory would over flow and the knuckles of my fingers would wear out.  (Come to think of it, my knuckles are wearing out anyway.  Since we are on the subject, You think You could help me out with that?)

Well.  Today.  Sixty years.  Really?  I mean, how did that happen?  I do not mind being sixty.  But I feel a little like a guy who decided to drive across the country from coast to coast.  I figure I am three quarters of the way to my destination.  So if I left New York sixty years ago I should arrive in California in twenty more years.  The problem is that should put me around the Colorado/Utah border, and yet I occasionally smell salt in the air. Perhaps I am really around Sacramento?  That would be alright.  My tires (and scalp) are getting bald.  There are much worse things than getting home early.

Anyway, God.  Thank you for all of those years that were pre-cognitive for me.  The blurry years.  Mental images captured in the, as yet, unfocused camera of my brain.  Holding my father's hand and staring across the Detroit River at a far-away-land called "Canada."  I know he was telling me about it.  He made it sound like Narnia.  I've been there now, and it is not.  Mom explaining to me that a "Detroit Tiger" lived across the street.  God, I really had no idea what baseball was.  (If I had, would I have chosen to be a Cub fan?  Doubtful.  We'll talk about that later.)  All I knew was that a Tiger lived in that brick house.  I never crossed Vaughan Street again.

Somehow, by your grace (and I increasingly believe by your predestination) I lived long enough to move to Chicago and become an adolescent.  A place and a time of growing.  Of tall corn fields and even taller buildings.  Moments came into my life that have lasted.  Moments represented by phrases like, bad baseball, senior prom, dates, Jesus loves you, get a job, this diploma is seriously mine?, I do, would you go buy some more diapers, we're moving to St Louis.  And it was all because of you, God.  You kept me alive through a truck accident that should have killed me.  You saw me though nine years of higher education while cutting my teeth as a youth pastor, a new husband, a young father, a school bus driver, a factory worker, and a growing kid of yours.  The fact that I survived is proof that you exist. 

Then came the middle.  At least I assume it was the middle.  We shall see.  There was more youth pastoring, crazy insane ministry situations that broke me and sent me to the wilds of Colorado where you and a wise group of people gently held me for three weeks and literally healed and reformed my soul.  There was grace found within the walls of the home I lived in my with my wife and three phenomenal kids, within the congregation of a church that I loved more than I loved my own soul, and repeatedly in the stillness of a monastery in Minnesota where Godly people taught me about grace and prayer and hearing your still, soft voice.  You walked the woods with me and met me on a labyrinth made of mulch and released me from my past.  And then there was explosion and ugliness and pain.  All couched in sin and pride.  I fought the good fight with every breath until a wise man told me to stop fighting.  To move away from the battle or most certainly die.  Then there was more healing.  And there was Cleveland.  A lonely studio apartment all alone hovering ninety feet above Lake Erie with only you to talk to.  You were in the howl of the wind every night as the winter gale blew in from Canada and the Arctic Circle above that.  There was ... is ... my Towerview family.  Senior saints and young families all coming together to be a sweet fragrant offering of salvation in our community.  Here I find my brothers and sisters who wear uniforms to work every day.  They keep me safe as I walk out my life and I repay them by having their backs in prayer and teaching them your Word.

There is Debbie.  Kelli and Joe.  Scott and Amanda.  Chris and Laura.  There is Elle, Paisley, Judah, Liam, Beckett.  My Tuesday night family (they know who they are.)  My Thursday night family.  (They know who they are.)  My breakfast buddy.  My lunch buddy.  The small army of people that I talk to so frequently by text, or on the phone, or in my office, or in our homes.  They all know who they are, God.  And I know who they are.  They are a gift.  From  you, to me.  And I thank you because they keep me sane and walking in a straight line toward your throne.

So, yeah, God.  I'm sixty today.  Entering the fourth quarter.  Plenty more game to play.  Plenty more names to add to those above that I am so thankful for.  But know this, God.  If I've got the timing off.  If it all ends with my "race red" Mustang embedded in the grill of an eighteen wheel truck this afternoon ... I am honored by every moment you have given me.  I am speechless over every person you have sent me way.  (Some in a good way.  Some ... )  Sometimes I am so tired that I just want you to call my name and let me come home, collapse in a chair in your living room, and savor the sweet smells of heaven.  Yes, sometimes life does that to me.  But most of the time I am ready for you to call the next play. I'm ready to run another mission a yard from the gates of hell.  I know if I get back there I will recognize my foot prints from other missions.  It's been a crazy ride, God.  Crazy.

I would be out of line... totally remiss ... if I did not tell you this.  I love you.  With every breath.  Every heart beat.  Every step.  Every thought.  I am so far from perfect, God, that it scares me.  How can you possibly love  me?  And then I remember.  I remember your voice on those nights when you have woken me from my slumber to let me hear you sing over me.  And I look at the moon.  And I remember why you made it.  And I love you all the more....


The Dashboard Poet said...

Happy Birthday, younger brother. I am walking just a few steps beyond you, regarding the calender. Perhaps I walk several steps behind you in more important matters. You and I have been blessed to wear the same uniform. The only difference between your uniform and mine is that mine is a bit more frayed and much more dirty...and our unit patches differ. I have the stripes of a common ground-pounder...but younger brother, you are, in every regard, are a field-promoted line officer. Many eyes are on you, expecting direction and example. They have never been disappointed. God has great reward waiting for your homecoming. I hope, when the time comes, I get home before you do. The only reason I so hope is because I cannot imagine, and could not well-accept a world without you in it. So be doubly careful, younger brother, that you walk softly on those missions of which you wrote. Leave only the prints you intend to leave.

When I was just a child, dad taught me (I cannot fathom why) to avoid the ridge line, stay in the cover of shadow and wood, and most of all, leave only the kind of trail your friends will recognize. These 60+ year old bits of wisdom sound strange in our pastor ears...but somehow there is application. Walk wisely. Walk slowly. Stay off the common trail. Watch in the "360." Make only the sounds fitting your mission. And never double back the same way you first came. I don't know, perhaps this is crazy talk...but the warrior in you will surely understand.
I love you, younger brother...jim

PS...if this comment is exceedingly strange...well..I am 62.

Ron said...

I understand every last word. Message received. Lesson learned. See you "in the woods."