|image from Andrew Beierle|
To my parents:
I am sorry for all the times I wasn't grateful for the countless ways you took care of our family through the years. I remember complaining as a kid when we wouldn't go out to eat with other families on Sunday nights after church, not recognizing how hard it sometimes was just to put food on our table at home. It serves as one small example of a million ways in which I have failed to appreciate you both. But in my heart I have never stopped being thankful that you're my parents, or that you were the first people to lead me toward Jesus, and I'm sorry for the times I haven't shown that.
To my grandparents:
I am sorry for that time I stupidly listened to my Whiteheart cassette tape on headphones while we hiked the beautiful trails at Mt. Rogers instead of simply enjoying your company. I'm sure it wasn't the only time I failed to show appreciation for the many wonderful experiences you made possible for me and Cassidy growing up. So many of my favorite memories now are of times spent hiking or camping or boating or playing tennis or going on picnics with you, but I wonder how many times you had to drag me along, how many times I complained or, as in this instance, tried to tune out the experience just because it wasn't what I would have chosen to do at that moment. I'm sorry for not savoring those times with two of my favorite people in the world.
To the young gay man who joined the singing ensemble I was part of in high school:
I am so sorry for how I looked down on you, joining in the jokes that were made behind your back about the stage name you supposedly used at some gay bar where you allegedly performed. Is that even something someone young enough to be in high school would have been legally permitted to do? Probably not, yet the rumors flew, and few (if any) of us bothered to ask such questions, opting instead to laugh at you with condescension. Now, granted, you were never very friendly to us, either, but who knows how much mistreatment you had already faced before you ever met any of us that might have led you to hold yourself aloof? It doesn't excuse my attitude toward you, and I'm sorry.
To the young girl in a youth group I used to work with in Tennessee:
I am so sorry for the time I chastised you for being excited about an upcoming youth convention, reminding you that not all of the Christian life is a mountaintop experience and we would be wrong to count on those high times to get us through the low ones -- as if God doesn't graciously give us all moments of relief and refreshment that do, indeed, help sustain us through life's hardships. Why did I feel it so necessary to burst your bubble? Your excitement was not a flaw, and I'm sorry for acting as though it was.
To my friend I once called out for including the word "ass" in a photo caption on Facebook:
I am so sorry for my self-righteous compulsion to make a mountain out of a very meaningless molehill. I made you feel small and inadequate (and this was certainly not the only time), as though your choice of words somehow overshadowed the many wonderful things about you, like your love for Jesus and your deep compassion for others and the beautiful, creative soul He made you to be. I'm so sorry for choosing to focus on the one thing I disapproved of at the time instead of shifting my thoughts to all the things I love about you.
To Adam Lambert (and to any fans of his or anyone who related to him in any way):
I am so sorry for condemning you during your time on American Idol because I didn't approve of your lifestyle or appreciate your often-dark musical choices. I'm sorry for all the ridiculous things I posted on Facebook during those months, many of which I mercifully no longer remember, but the tone of which I recall being incredibly negative and judgmental. I do remember once asking people to pray for three of your fellow contestants, as though you weren't good enough to be prayed for. I'm so sorry for not simply seeing you through eyes of grace as a person with a soul and a lifetime of experiences I know nothing about.
To the one I tried so hard to control a few years ago (and honestly, this could be extended to many of my friends, though I have one particular person in mind at the moment):
I am so sorry for not trusting God to guide your decisions. There had been a time when I was a major source of encouragement in your life, but as the months went on I felt more and more confident that I knew better than you did what you ought to pursue with the years that lay ahead of you, and I made it increasingly clear how much I disapproved of your desires. I even threatened to distance myself -- empty threats, because the truth was I didn't want distance, I just wanted to manipulate your choices. The deepest regrets of my life came during this period, and even now I fear you might be experiencing residual effects of how I treated you. (And truthfully, I fear this for each person I'm addressing here, and probably for others I haven't thought of during this writing.) I hope and pray God has relieved any of the burdens I helped to fashion in your life. I pray you find freedom and beauty and life. And I'm so sorry for working against these things, the very things Jesus came to bring us.
This post hardly even begins to scratch the surface of ways I've stripped my fellow humans of their God-given dignity as His image-bearers throughout my lifetime, but they are some of the moments that haunt me, even if I've accepted forgiveness for them and moved on. Loveless behavior has not been a problem in church culture alone. It has been a problem in me.
|image from sallydell|
I've spent too much of my life ignoring these facts, minimizing love's importance, attempting to redefine it in ways that allow me to see myself as better than others. But increasingly my desire is to let go of my pride in order to love people well.
Jesus was full of love for souls wounded by the passions of men; he loved to bind up their wounds and to find in those very wounds the balm which should heal them. Thus he said to the Magdalen: "Much shall be forgiven thee because thou hast loved much," a sublimity of pardon which can only have called forth a sublime faith. Why do we make ourselves more strict than Christ? Why, holding obstinately to the opinions of the world, which hardens itself in order that it may be thought strong, do we reject, as it rejects, souls bleeding at wounds by which, like a sick man's bad blood, the evil of their past may be healed, if only a friendly hand is stretched out to lave them and set them in the convalescence of the heart?
I'm publicly repenting of the times I've tried to be "more strict than Christ." I want the rest of my life to be led by His example of humility and marked by love. Not control. Not selfishness. Not arrogance. Not self-righteousness. Love.