Here is the next letter from my correspondent: Dear Scot, wow, i am honored to be gifted with so many words that are full of grace and love.
on your first point, i have worked hard these last few years to believe the god of my childhood was not the God that the bible speaks of. unfortunately, both my father and mother beat me, both out of discipline rage and control, and then to add in grandfathers who sexually abused me (not in the name of God, luckily) it has been hell trying to push into the idea of your second point…that joy comes from being in a loving relationship with another. i have spent many years trying to cut this longing, to be loved and to love, out of my soul (sometimes literally). a few years ago, i gave in. i surrendered to the idea that theology and philosophy and even studying the bible were a poor substitution for the relationships that i so longed for. so i gave away all my books and most of my bibles and began seeking God through nature and poetry and art. i let go of most of my christian friends, seeing as they had all the answers and i found a couple of loving mentors that i could be to open and honest in front of. i even started a blog where i would only allow myself to write about my feelings, no opinions, no answers, no explanations. it was very embarrassing for me, and so very humbling. it has been a long hard journey, but i think i might be a step closer to loving god and loving others than ever before. lately, i have found myself saying i just want to be more loving. i keep feeling drawn to open my bible and read the gospels, but when i do, i fear turning into my parents or so many pastors that i’ve known and interpreting the words Jesus said into what i want them to say. even as i’m writing this, i sense a bitterness rising in me against a God who would let people misinterpret the bible and a fear that i would be one of those people. but at the same time there seems to be a deep awareness that there is something rich in Jesus’ words and actions that hold a truth that is bigger than anybody’s misinterpretations. i actually just borrowed (sorry, didn’t buy it yet) your book from a friend. i keep opening and then shutting it. i think it might feel like a big commitment to read that much about Jesus. do you have a favorite chapter? maybe i could start there. i do like reading your blog community’s words. they have kept me inspired that a group of christians can be loving and can maintain faith in the midst of so many opinions about the bible. i do see in your blog that loving god
and others is kept first and foremost in your thoughts. it is encouraging.thanks so much for sharing yourself with me both through the blog and through your email. this has been a very very hard weekend for me, and your response has been a great blessing in so many ways. thanks, Name withheld
The Bible teaches us that God is a God of miracles — the kind of God who opened waters for his people to be delivered, who created new life in the womb of a young woman in order to enter this painful, sinful world of ours in person, who went about doing good by healing folks and wiping the marred skin of lepers clean, and then who up and rose from the grave and sent to us the Holy Spirit — but I sense that the Love System in your Soul has been damaged, and I am praying that somehow — in the way God works — that God will create anew in your soul the capacity to love in such a way that it overflows into a joyous life.
Let me give you a suggestion: it is one that the saints have always practiced. That you read the Gospels aloud — forcefully, letting those words wash over you, as your voice becomes a declaration and your ears a receptive instrument to those great words that tell us about Jesus. This might keep your mind from wandering and from letting the evil one entering into the silences to tell you that you are not worthy of God’s gracious love. You are, believe me.
Being angry about your past is OK — in fact, you should be. I know I would be. And I know many who are angry about abusive pasts. The Bible is full of those who express their anger — the Psalms have a series of Psalms (like Psalm 137) called laments that express the justifiable anger of God’s people. I believe God wants us to express our anger to him. He can take that anger and heal it. What is more, miraculously, by absorbing it all for us on the cross and through the power of the resurrection God can stand us (and you, friend) up with Jesus to live a new life in the power of the Spirit. We’re standing there with you. Know that.
Kris and I have been so encouraged both by your willingness to tell your story and by the many who have joined hands with you, or laid their gentle hands of compassion on your shoulders, to pray with you for healing. We’re here friend. I’m happy to say there are many of us.
Blessings and prayers,