Thursday, October 06, 2005
A Letter to My Son
So I wrote him the following letter, and it caused such a welling of emotion in me, that I know God was using is for something much more than something I would share with my son, as much as it needed to be that, too.
I believe it was meant for all of you to share as well, as it explains as well as anything could how I find myself where I find myself.
Your mom told me that you’ve been asking questions lately about God. It’s good that you ask questions, we all ask questions, even adults sometimes ask themselves or others, “How do we know that God is real? How come God doesn’t just speak to us and say, ‘Here I am.’”
Why does it seem so difficult sometimes, why do bad things happen, how can we know for sure?
The most famous and smartest people in the world have asked themselves these questions since human beings were able to think anything at all, and start to speak. It may well be that man’s first words were something like, “Where am I? What’s this all about? Is there anyone else here with me?”
I have asked myself (and those I trust) all of these questions, and more. So you are not alone in asking these questions.
Let me tell you why I believe in God, because once upon a time I did not believe in Him. I did not think He was real, I thought this was the only world there was, that there was no such things as heaven (or hell). I believed that each person only exists for just the amount of time they breathe and walk the earth, and when they die, they die and their bones turn to dust and they become just bits of matter. Eternity just meant longer than human beings can imagine, but nothing more than that.
So what changed?
My life changed, most importantly. And that has made all the difference in the world, all the difference in my world.
First, let me tell you that I always wanted to believe in God. When people did bad things, I wanted to believe that there was a God who would punish them. When dangerous things were about to happen, I wanted to think that there was a God who could save people. When terrible things happened to people, and they were hurt or killed, especially big catastrophes, I wanted to believe that there was a God who would love us and show us that there was still good, that we could be comforted and given hope. I very much wanted that Hope that He would provide. Because there are a lot of bad things that happen and that people do, even me, and I didn’t want to think, “These bad things are just facts, and this idea that there’s a God above us all is a lot of silly nonsense.”
So before I believed anything, I very much wanted to believe, because the alternative is to have no hope for something better.
So as I said, my life changed. You have often asked about how it was that I was married once before to Jilly Beans and Spud’s mom, and you wondered why we got divorced. Their mom struggled with a problem, just like people in our family have struggled, where drinking alcohol became a problem in their lives and they were sick from it. Because your Mom and I grew up in families that suffered from alcoholism, that ended up causing her and I some problems too. Now, that’s the kind of bad thing in the world that would leave us hopeless without God (or our Higher Power as some of our friends and family think of God).
Because your Mom and I had problems, and experienced things in our childhood like that, that’s why we sometimes need to talk to nice people like Joe, or Pastor John, or sometimes go to meetings where people share these experiences with each other and try to help other grow, learn, and heal these hurts.
I believe you understand what this means, because you are a very sensitive and aware young man, and as a family we have been very honest and open with you. And in the same way that it’s okay to ask about God, it’s okay to ask about what Mom and I experienced, and what alcoholism means, and why we sometimes need to talk to people who are trained to help other people understand and heal (just like a Doctor).
Your sisters’ Mom and I ended up getting divorced because, in trying to get well, each of us came to a different idea of what our problems were and whether we could be together to fix them. I was heart-broken and angry, and I couldn’t understand why my family had to be taken away from me. I cried and cried, and could have lost hope altogether. I wanted to stay married and I wanted to have my children with me. But that was not to be. And I needed to take a lot of time with counselors, meetings, and speaking to people to try to understand why that happened to us.
In the process of me learning about myself, and my family, and dealing with people and problems, I came to believe that there was a Power greater than me who could help me, who wanted to help me, who had always been and always would be a part of the world He created. How did I come to that? I’m not really sure, but it happened.
It made me want to find out more about this idea of “God,” and the only place I could think of to find out more were other people – asking them what they thought – and the Bible. (That’s supposed to be full of God’s words, right?) So I talked to a lot of people, friends, family, people I trusted, and I started reading the Bible. I got far enough to start thinking there had to be something to what the Bible said, I mean Jewish people followed God for at least 2,000 years before Jesus was born, and they believed in him despite really terrible things: slavery in Egypt in ancient times, and even the Holocaust in World War II. They never gave up on their God, because they believed He never gave up on them.
And the first Christians, the ones who were called Saints, the ones that saw Jesus with their own eyes, and those who knew and met people who DID see Jesus when he walked the Earth, those early believers really believed. Many times, they gave up everything they had for Jesus. They were killed for believing in him. That’s pretty hard to imagine they would do for something made up.
One day, I was walking along the frozen Mohawk River and Erie Canal. It was a brilliantly sunny day in January, the kind of day where the sun is so bright, and reflects so strongly off the snow and ice, it hurts your eyes. But it was brilliant, beautiful just the same. As I walked, I started talking to a God I wasn’t even certain was there. I told him I needed Him to help me know that He exists. I told Him I needed to know for myself. I told Him that I couldn’t pretend, wouldn’t pretend something I didn’t know, and He was going to have to convince me.
As I walked, He spoke to my heart. He suggested to my mind some questions to ask myself, which He must have given me because they were way different from anything I had been thinking.
I asked myself, “How can I know God exists? Is there one thing I can see or know absolutely to be true, that can only be true of there is a God?”
And I found an answer. In my heart, I know that there are certain things, certain acts, that are absolutely bad or evil. Likewise, I know there are things that happen, things people do, that are absolutely good. Killing someone without necessity, causing harm to someone else for fun, these things I know are evil. Sacrificing your life for someone else, protecting someone who is helpless, saving someone’s life, these are good things. I know these things with complete certainty, without ever having been taught or told this is so.
If there is no God:
If there is no Being who created the world, who caused all things to be, or set the world in order;
If there is no God who requires us to come to know Him and His purposes;
If there is no God who will weigh us and our actions here on Earth;
If death is the final everything, and there is nothing after;
Then it really wouldn’t matter whether I do good or evil. There is no hope, but no punishment either. No law that binds us, no Authority greater than what each of us, in our own selfish desires, decides is good for us. And I wouldn’t care at all what happens to anyone else. And there is NO EXPLANATION for why I would know, deep in my heart, that certain things are evil and bad, and other things are good. Because without God, there is no reason to think abut right and wrong.
But, I still do. I have to. I can’t help myself. Because I am His creation, and that’s how He made each one of us.
As I listened to what God was causing me to think about this, I became more and more excited as I walked along that frozen emptiness. I was not alone, and I knew it. God was with me that day, and He’s been with me ever since.
After that, I read the Bible with a new passion. I learned a lot more about God’s character, and His promises. I came to believe that I needed Jesus in my life, that John 3:16 was a promise of love for me. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that we would not perish, but have eternal life.”
I still needed reassurance, I sometimes still do. But what happened next made me certain, that I would never doubt His love for me. I would never think that He would abandon (nor “forsake” me).
I met your Mom along my struggle to understand, just after I walked with God on the ice. I met my best friend in the whole world, a woman who would love me with all her heart, who I would love with all my heart. We became parents together of Jilly Beans and Spud, and we made a new family, a family I thought I would never have again. God redeemed these parts of my life. That means, He made them new again. He made me a new creation, as His word says He will for all who believe, and He renewed my lfie and hope.
And then, he blessed me even more the day that you became a life inside your Mom. The doctors were worried about her, about how you were doing inside growing from tiny little embryo to a tiny little person to a baby. But we weren’t afraid. Many people prayed for you from the moment you started to form in your Mom’s body. Great men and women of prayer sought God’s protection for you. I even promised to God, that if He brought you safely into this world, I would offer you up to Him as a firstborn gift. What that meant was, I was pledging that I would teach you everything I could about Him, and that I would dedicate your life to serving Him. And how that will be, what God will ask of you, only God can tell you, in time. And He will, my son, because He keeps all of His promises, with you, and Mom, and Jilly Beans, and Spud, with my family and Mom’s family, He has given me more love than I ever thought was possible in this world.
That’s why I know there is a God.
And He has been with me, with us, every step of the way. He has kept me safe, He has kept you and Mom safe, He helped all of us become the family He wanted us to be.
My whole life has been a story of traveling from uncertainty and fear and sorrow, to joy, and confidence, excitement, and ultimately, peace.
I pray that God brings you on a journey like that, not that I want you to ever be unhappy, but I want you to be able to see How Great is Our God.
I love you more than I ever thought I could love, but it is only by the Power and Grace and Love of He who first loved me: God.
Links: Basil's Blog, Outside the Beltway, Mudville Gazette, bRight & Early, Blogotional, Cao's Blog, Jo's Cafe
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