Community: It will baffle you


Dear me,

Being a part of a community will be difficult and you will be tempted to abandon the project of community participation. You will discover that you are not as patient as you think you are, not as motivated to connect with different people than you think you are, not as memorable as you believe yourself to be. In community you will discover that you are valuable and loved, but also the community can exist long after you are gone. You cannot control the community, and when you think you can be aware that you are manipulating not participating. 

Being in community will teach you that you are not the center of the world and that things move slower than you like. You will discover that just as you have difficultly with some people, there will be some people who have difficulty with you! You will discover you are just as weird and broken as the next person, but you will hesitate sharing that with them. Please resist this hesitation. The only way to participate in community is to participate - otherwise you are observing and we both know how you tend to judge people at a distance...

So, in these parting words, consider the wisdom of Carlo Carretto:

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I would like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, though not completely. And besides, where would I go? Would I establish another? I would not be able to establish it without the same faults, for they are the same faults I carry in me. And if I did establish another, it would be my Church, not the Church of Christ. I am old enough to know that I am no better than anyone else.

Love, your future self

Dear Me, "God doesn't usually create neon signs..."

Photo by nick hidalgo on Unsplash

Photo by nick hidalgo on Unsplash


Dear Me,

Despite all the illustrated Bible storybooks you grew up with, when you are older you will finally deeply understand that God is not an old man in the sky with gray flowing hair, a beard and a crown, surrounded by harp players. God is not separated from you. God is around you all the time.

You will also learn that God doesn't usually create neon signs to show you the way. Sometimes you will have no idea if you are making the right decision, but the peace in your heart lets you know that God is with you.

Dear Me, do not cling so tightly to your plans for the future. Just learn all you can in the space that you are in, because all those skills will be useful as you jump from career path to career path, finally landing in ministry. Know that no knowledge is wasted; even learning how to fix a jammed copy machine will be useful in ministry. Know that God is with you in each space.

Dear Me, keep going to church. Your church family will continue to grow and support you in ways that your other family cannot. Continue keeping in contact with people you love because as you get older, those relationships will become more valuable.

There will be several detours and bumps in the road. When you are throwing your hands up in the air in frustration, do not forget to look around. Don't forget that God is with you in each space and that you are loved.

Remember to take care of yourself. You are important and loved by God and others.


"God must be a composite of all of us"

Evelyn Pyle Tutt shares of how the on going revelation of God has affected her understanding of God in this way:

"My mental picture of God used to be the old, white man in the sky. I've come to realize that God encompasses all aspects of human existence, including sex, gender, orientation, color, age, and any other differences we have as humans. If we are all made in the image of God, God must be a composite of all of us...."
Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

"You come from a long line of people who kept going while they were waiting"

The following letter was penned by Jeannette Meade as she writes to her past self inviting her to "keep moving while waiting." 


Dear Past Self,

You’re still going to get mad at God. People you treasure are still going to pass away. Some things you want to happen aren’t going to, and some things you don’t want to happen are going to happen. And you’re going to live through it. You are struggling to find your purpose. You read “A Purpose Driven Life” and got mad at the book because it didn’t help. It’s not going to happen all at once. You’re not going to win the lottery and become a beloved philanthropist to people and animals. Nothing has ever been easy, it’s not supposed to be. But you don’t have to climb the walls waiting around for God to tell you what to do, or dig your feet in and make God drag you to what He wants you to do. God is going to give you an amazing gift. He’s going to give you an incredible church that is going to help you grow in so many ways that you won’t be able to count them. You are going to value your roots and your family like never before and receive incredible strength from them. You aren’t doing it wrong now. Sometimes you try too hard. Sometimes imperfect humans make church and life very hard. It’s not going to be easy. But it is going to get easier. You are still going to get fidgety and have flashes of understanding that create more questions than they answer. You will have wonderful pastors who will tell you that this is okay! God loves your quirky, unique self and is preparing you for adventures that will need that quirky, unique self to be successful. I know that all of this would be second nature if God would make you independently wealthy first, but He’s going to use who you are now and what you have now. You come from a long line of people who kept going while they were waiting, and in doing so, didn’t wait at all.


Dear Me, God is not as violent as you think...

Dear fifteen year old me, 

It is very tempting to attribute all sort of anger to God. I get it. God gets angry in the bible and seems to call forth fire and destruction. I understand that Jesus gets angry and flips the Temple tables over. I understand that God is given all sort of credit for the destruction of people. I understand this does not makes sense to you now, but over the next twenty years you will read, learn, listen and experience many things which will help you to see that God is not as violent as you think. 

Scritpure words.jpg

Lest you think that God is just a happy go lucky, head in the clouds, distant and unconcerned God, let me stop you right there. I also know that you are prone to think that life (and God) are either/or. So, you may be thinking, if God is not angry then God must be happy. Either God is angry or God is not. Again, I understand where you are coming from. Remember, I am you. You will also come to discover that life is not as black/white and either/or as you think it is right now, but that is a letter for another day. Right now I want you to begin to see that God's lack of fire and fury does not mean God does not care. As a matter of fact, you will come to see that God cares more than you can imagine. When you cry, God cries with you. When you are baffled at the hypocrisy of the world, God is also. And, yes, when you are angry at the injustice in the world, God joins in that anger. However, and this is the key, God's anger does not and has never resulted in the destruction of people. 

God is not as violent as you think and may you come to grow into embracing the non-violence God in Jesus gives humanity. Because when you do, you discover the goodness of the world, the love that sustains and the hope of resurrection that transforms the world. 

Be kind to yourself and others,