Last night, I opened my email, and saw that I had a Facebook message. It was a message from a new friend; one that I have gotten to know more through the keyboard than face to face. We think alike, she and I, and I have already grown to appreciate her input. So, I opened it and began to read. When I finished reading what she had written to me, I received a peace that I haven't had in a few months. So, thanks, "S," this one's for you.
I'll admit up front that this is mostly rant. It's something that I've been needing to do for a long time, but everytime I started typing, I'd just go back and delete it all. This morning, as I was reading the Life Journal texts, it hit me again, just like it has every morning for the past week or ten days. I haven't written a blog in a while, and that was intentional, but today's the day. So, if you are easily offended, already in a bad mood, or just looking to be offended, please stop reading. And again, these are just my thoughts, but if I continue to keep them bottled up, they will eat at me from the inside out.
Here we go...(second chance to stop reading)
The reading this morning was from 2 Timothy. We think Paul wrote it, but aren't totally sure. If Paul wrote it, he wrote it from prison...again. I've given Paul a hard time for a long time. For me, he's sometimes hard to follow and he seems to write in circles. But this letter, this letter is different. I know I've read it before but it has never clicked with me like it did this time. In this letter, Paul lays it all out there. It's honest. It's practical. It's open. It's from the heart. It's written out of pure love. In fact, it's one of the most beautiful letters I have ever read (letters from my family aside).
Paul's writing to Timothy, his friend and colleague. He knew his time was getting short and wanted Timothy to hear a few things. He's asking Timothy to get to him as quick as he can, and asks him to bring a few things with him when he comes. He's reminding Timothy of the hope of the gospel, encouraging him to be faithful, to find his strength in scripture, and letting him know that not everyone is as they appear.
That is the part of this letter that hit me between the eyes this morning, and here is what Paul said: "Avoid Godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene..." That has come up, in one way or another, in the Life Journal texts practically every day for the last week or two.
Paul encourages Timothy, also, to "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth...and the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." And that is where I have gotten stuck. Not with the being ashamed or handling the word of truth, not with the not quarrelling, or the being kind, and teaching...I can do all of that. It's the resentful part that is eating at my soul. So, here's what I'm going to do. Like Paul, I'm going to write a letter, and here it is:
"James, a servant of Christ, husband, father, and pastor,
To the one who has followed my words looking to be offended:
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God for you everytime I think of you, though your identity remains a mystery. As I think about the last few weeks and months, I apologize that I am evidently not the pastor you think I should be. In fact, I'm not sure that pastor exists anywhere. We are human, and as humans, we err from time to time, in judgment, in words, and in actions. Still, we are called by God and given the strength we need to fulfill that calling in our lives.
I give thanks that you have pointed out my weaknesses, as working on them has made me a stronger pastor. I give thanks that you have caused me to guard my words more closely, so that now, I may no longer be found guilty of Godless chatter. I give thanks that because of your actions I have once again began to focus more on my wife and my daughters.
That being said, I am disappointed. The anger and hurt are gone, but I am terribly disappointed. Not in you as a person, but because of missed opportunities to shepherd one of my flock. Had you come to me personally, instead of engaging in such damaging gossip, as your pastor we could have talked about the things that bothered you and found a path to reconciliation. Since I don't know who you are, I cannot help you deal with the loneliness that you must feel, and that breaks my heart.
I will admit, in the beginning, the anger I felt towards you, and the pain your words caused me, were great. Now, that anger has turned to pity, and the pain has stirred up an inner confidence that I haven't felt in a while.
I walk into the world now, with my head held higher than I have in a while, because I know, beyond any doubt, that I am doing exactly what I was created to do. The fact that the enemy has used you to attack me only reinforces that. God created me for one purpose...to storm the gates of hell, and now I have no fear of marching toward them.
Thank you. I do wish you had not chosen to hide behind anonymity, because now I can't invite you to storm the gates with me. I hold no ill feelings toward you, and extend to you the arm of peace in Christ's name. May you find the pastor you seek in one of God's other houses of worship.
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
Now, I have put this whole thing to rest. I am who I am, and God created me this way for a purpose.