I’m sorry…an open letter to my family and friends
Dear family and friends,
I need to start with an apology. I am truly sorry. Nearly six years ago, I was given the greatest gift in the history of mankind, and I was asked to share it with others. For six years, I have made excuses, remained silent and shirked my responsibility – all out of fear. I have feared what people might think. I have feared what people might say, and I have feared failure. All of these fears resulted in me keeping for myself that which I was given to share. The gift that I was given was the gift of life and the giver was my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The purpose of this letter is first to apologize to you for not doing what I should have done years ago, and second to finally share with you the gift that was given to me.
I suppose it makes sense to start by sharing a little bit about my own personal experience. Prior to coming to Christ, I was extremely wary of organized religion. Perhaps the term wary is a bit of an understatement. The reality was, I had an overwhelming distrust and distaste for organized religion. As a child, we never went to church other than for the occasional Christmas Mass at the local Catholic Church. I felt like religion was for people who needed a crutch and couldn’t think for themselves (the “flock of sheep” mentality). I was certain that churches existed primarily to con people into giving them money, and I was very cynical and sarcastic when it came to organized religion.
As a result of all this, I began to develop my own ideas of what God must be like. These ideas were not based on any particular research or knowledge, but more on how I wanted and expected God to be. My mother died when I was young (6 years old), so I always liked the idea that there was an afterlife and a heaven. It gave me hope that I would see her again someday. I wasn’t really sure how you got to heaven, but I figured I was a pretty good person, so I’d probably make it. When it came to the idea of Jesus, I felt like maybe he was a good teacher, but the idea that he was God in human form (i.e., the “Son of God”) seemed to far fetched to me to be real. I thought that the Bible was probably full of good stories illustrating certain points (I hadn’t actually read it), but I figured there wasn’t much more to it than that. I snickered at people who took the Bible too seriously or too literally, and I wondered how any intelligent person could have that much “blind faith.” I was also annoyed by any type of evangelism. In my mind, religion was a very personal thing between me and my God. I was offended by anything that I perceived as people trying to force their beliefs upon me.
I did leave room for the possibility that the Church might potentially serve two useful functions for some people. First, I thought church probably served a social function. It was a place where people got together and met other people from their community and maybe had lunch together after the Sunday sermon. Secondly, I thought church might be good for kids to teach them about the idea of faith. I didn’t necessarily think that that faith had to be in God, but I thought it was important to teach kids to have faith in something.
I don’t know exactly where these ideas and notions of mine came from, but they worked well enough for me for the first 30 years of my life. I was happy to keep God in the small box that I had constructed for him and to go about living my life. It was a fairly good life that I was leading. I managed to graduate from college, get a good job, start my own company, get married, buy a house and have some kids all without giving much thought to God or spiritual matters at all.
Then, after the birth of my daughter (my third child) in 2003, my wife and I decided to take some friends up on an invitation to their church. In the past I had half jokingly referred to their church as “the cult.” I was still wary and extremely skeptical, but I decided it was a chance to hang out with my friends which was important to me, so we went. After going the first time, my curiosity was peeked, and we started going more regularly in the weeks thereafter. When I started to put my preconceived notions of organized religion aside and really listen to what was being said, I began to realize that Christianity was not at all what I presupposed it to be – a series a rituals and unthinking followers led by blind faith. I remember reading 1 Thessalonians 5:21 which says, “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” Reading that dispelled any notion I had previously held that Christianity required blind faith. Here was a faith (Christianity) which invited me to research and question it, and then decide whether it was true.
That realization sparked questions that I needed to find answers to. I wasn’t much of a “people person” at the time (I’m still not, really). So, I wasn’t interested in talking to a bunch of Christians about their belief system. In hindsight, I think I was still distrustful of them when it came to getting at the truth. Instead, I began to read – a lot. I wanted to find out what Christianity was all about and whether there was actually any truth to it. I wanted to find out for myself, but I was also driven by my desire to make sure that I passed on truth to my kids. I needed to find out what that truth was! As I did my research, I came to discover the historical accuracy of the Bible, the archaeological & scientific evidence, for the Bible, and the evidence of its own validity found within the Bible itself (i.e., fulfilled prophecy). I came to find out, and believe, that the Bible was a lot more than just a collection of good stories written by men to illustrate their point(s). I came to realize and accept that the Bible was God’s Word given to men to, among other things, provide adequate evidence and proof of the existence of God, and Jesus.
I will never forget the day when, in the midst of researching Christianity and the Bible, I sat watching my kids play. They were driving me nuts, I’m sure, but they were having fun. All of the sudden, my love for my kids began to well up inside of me to the point that it almost brought me to tears. I have always had a deep love for my kids, but this was different. In that moment, I caught my first glimpse of how God must feel about me. If the Bible was true, God loved me eternally more than I was even capable of loving my own kids. That realization floored me. I realized in that moment that I was at a crossroads in my life. That kind of love deserved a response. I could no longer keep God in the neat little box I had relegated him to so many years ago. I needed to make a decision.
Then, one Sunday morning while I was listening to another Bible teaching, it finally hit me. I had tried to lead a “good life,” but it wasn’t enough. I was a sinner. Because of my sin, I was alienated from the God who created me, and nothing I had done or could do would ever fix that alienation. The Bible says that God does not want or require me to jump through a lot of religious hoops to go to heaven. Instead, God paid the price for my sins when he sent his son to die on the cross in my place to be my savior and redeemer, and all he wanted was for me to admit that I needed him and ask him to come into my life as Lord and Savior. That morning I talked to God and admitted that I did need him in my life. I asked him to forgive my sins and come into my life, and I thanked him for giving me the proof of his existence that allowed me to take that step of faith. I have never regretted that decision.
In that moment, and from that moment, I experienced a deep sense of peace and belonging. Although I still face tough moments and decisions in my life, there is a peace in knowing that there is someone there with me the whole way. I am part of God’s family – an adopted son, and I know that when my time here on earth is done, I will live in the presence of God forever. The original thirst for knowledge that led me to make the decision to investigate Christianity has only increased. I’m continuing to read more and more about the Bible and Christianity, and everything I’ve read thus far has only served to deepen my faith (including the Bible itself).
For many people, the decision to accept Christ into their lives is a very emotional one. They come to a low point in their life or a breaking point, and they realize their need for a relationship with God. God then provides the foundation and reasoning to back up that emotional decision. God didn’t wire me that way though, and my journey to faith was a little different. In my case, God opened my eyes to the reasoning and proof of his existence which led to my decision to accept him. That decision has since led me to the emotional side of the equation as I have come to realize the love, the justice, and the sacrifice that went into God’s plan to redeem me, a sinner, from the hardness of my own heart. The realization of the depth of God’s love for me that led him to give me that free gift of life by his ultimate sacrifice simultaneously fills my heart with joy and my eyes with tears. It has also led to a very deep sorrow and conviction born out the realization that I accepted God’s gift of love and salvation and have failed to share it with the people that I love.
In short, here is what I have come to know as truth. At some level, we all feel the need for God because we were created to be in a relationship with him. Our sin separates us from our holy God eternally, and somewhere deep down we all feel the desire to bridge that separation. Some people realize this earlier in life, but many don’t acknowledge the emptiness caused by the absence of God in our lives until much later. The sad news is that our sin separates us from God, and there is nothing we can do to bridge that gap. The good news is that God may a way for us to be reconciled to him. He gave us the gift of salvation through the death of Jesus on the cross so that we can live forever with him. All he requires of us is that we accept his free gift of salvation and make him Lord of our lives. I share this with you now in love and all humility knowing that it is not something I discovered or learned on my own, but something that was revealed to me by a gracious God.
My prayer is that you will come to make the decision to accept Jesus into your life and experience the unmatched joy and contentment that comes with that decision. That said, I encourage you not to take my word for it. Take the challenge of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and “test everything.” God’s love can, and will, live up to the challenge. Investigate Christianity for yourself. If there is any chance that it is true, you owe yourself at least that much. As I was researching Christianity and the Bible, I was skeptical, but I resolved to try to approach it with an open mind. As I continued to learn more and more, I wrestled with the question: “What are you going to do if you find out the Bible and everything it teaches about Christianity are true and accurate?” What will you do in that circumstance?
May the peace and love of God be with you always.
Wayne…a sinner saved by grace