We’ve been going through some pretty rough stuff here lately. So I thought I’d share with you this email I got in today (right, actually, at a moment that I was feeling particularly low). Its subject line was, “A heartfelt thank you.”
I was raised in a very independent fundamental Bible-believing baptist home and church. My childhood was not pleasant, to say the least. But that is not why I’m writing you today.
When I left home for college, I thought for sure life would be better to me than it had been all those years trapped in my home. It was not. My faith took a real beating during that time. I had gotten through an abusive home, and I’d been waiting for God to show up and deliver me for a long long time. But he hadn’t shown up then, and he wasn’t showing up now.
While I was being tossed about by life, I started questioning aspects of my faith. So much so that I was afraid I might not actually be Christian! When I came to that realization I just froze. I stopped participating, questioning, and thinking about religion in any form. I was scared of what any realization at that point might mean for me. What if I didn’t really believe what I thought the Bible said? What if I was going to hell because I just couldn’t find peace in my faith? What if I decided the Church as I knew it was a giant, seething mass of ugliness I couldn’t tolerate? I was so afraid. Afraid of hell, afraid of my own doubts, afraid of finding a truth that was separate from any god.
Then I found your blog. And I realized that maybe real Christianity was more than I had been raised to believe. Maybe my heart shied away from Christianity because of how it had been presented to me. Maybe the preacher man was just as human as I am, and maybe he got it wrong. Maybe I didn’t have to despise the gays who could not change their sexual preferences. I didn’t have to despise the homeless man begging. I didn’t have to be pro-war, and anti-women.
Suddenly my mind and heart together realized that there was so much more Jesus was offering and demanding than what I had seen thus far. Maybe love really could be enough.
I am looking out in front of me and I see I am taking the first steps on a long road to study, to search out, to really find who Jesus is and what He wants us to be. Thank you for being that light in my darkness that gave me the courage to release my heart from the bonds of fear that have held me tied tight and silent for many years. Thank you for being the voice in my deafness that reminded me to breathe and to love.
I wanted to share this in the hopes that it might prove for you something of the ray of sunshine it did for me; such light is such a blessing when things are dim.
Also, this letter comes at a uniquely apropos time for me personally; it’s the signal flag I was waiting for to tell me it was time to say something I’ve been meaning to. About two weeks ago I became aware of a new, profound and (as it turns out) increasingly pressing need of mine to very clearly spell out everything that I think actually happened—cosmically, spiritually, personally, universally—when Jesus died on the cross.
In short, the time has come for me to write a book spelling out the entirety of my theology (he said, acutely aware of the repelling pretentiousness that always seems to accompany that word).
And I’ve decided to write that book, post-by-post, here on my blog. What else can I do? I can’t write the book and keep the blog going (not to mention also ghostwriting the full-size book for which I contracted when, three months ago, my wife Catherine became unemployed for about a month before becoming Director of Finance & Administration for 2-1-1 San Diego, where she is very happy indeed).
I’m not yet sure how or where I’ll keep the posts together on the blog, so that anyone who wants to can easily catch up on reading them all, but that an easy problem to solve. And the book won’t be the only thing I’ll be writing on the blog; I’ll continue to respond to those letters I’m moved to, and to comment on whatever current events catch my attention. But the book will definitely be the main thrust of the work I’ll be doing here until it’s finished.
I’ve written—gosh, sixteen books: nine ghostwritten, seven of my own. But I’ve certainly never written one intended to cover as much ground as will this one (though Penguins is awfully comprehensive; and though hardly a book I covered a lot of theological ground in the 16-pt. tenets of Unfundamentalist Christians). But I’ve sure never written a book … well, right out in public.
So this should be fun. In my work you guys have been awesome partners with me thus far. If anyone has ever had an ideal place to write a book about God, I’m thinking this blog is that place.