(We are taking a week off here at Sick Pilgrim. So, Jess and I will be posting some pieces we wrote for other forums. I wrote this piece for my now defunct blog, The Rogue. It didn’t really fit there, but it works here very well. I wrote it when I turned 40 and I think it still holds up. Enjoy)
A few days ago, I turned forty. I felt pretty good about the first half of my life, especially my recent confirmation in the Catholic Church. I didn’t expect all A’s, but I figured I’d be a solid B student.
I waited by the mail box but nothing came. Finally, a weird creature with seven heads appeared in front of me and handed me a scroll. I looked at the postmark that said, “Office of the Church, St. Peter The Rock, Director.” When I tried to tip the strange creature, all seven heads looked at me and said “Really?” in a million different languages.
My cheeks burned in embarrassment as I opened the scroll. Much to my shock, St. Peter himself wrote my mid-term evaluation.
The results? Well, er, read them for yourself. I copied them word for word from the scroll.
Dear Jonathan “God’s Gift” Ryan,
In February, you took my name and the name of my aesthetic friend, St. Francis, when you received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Given that, I figured I’d do your mid life evaluation myself. Francis, bless him, doesn’t really go for that sort of thing. He’s kind of a weird dude, but we all love him anyway, especially all the dead animals in pet heaven (it does exist, btw). Or did you take your name from St. Francis de Sales? All he ever does is talk about his “craft” with Flannery O’Connor and C.S. Lewis all day.
When I looked at your file on my IPad (Hey, who do you think came up with the idea? Steve Jobs?), your name made me laugh. Jonathan, it means “God’s special gift” in Hebrew. I know your parents named you after the new age bird, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but you can hardly blame them. It was the seventies after all. You could have a name like “Moonbeam” or “Birdtears”. Be thankful for the small things, eh? Still, all things happen for a reason and I’m convinced The Father influenced your parents to name you, “God’s Gift.”
Having said that, you realize your name is kinda of a joke, right? God’s gift, heh. Did that work with the Christian ladies? I bet it did. As I watched your life film, I saw you make the moves on one lovely girl by actually saying “Hey, well, you know, I’m God’s gift”.
As much as you said that joke, I think you believed it your entire life. You spent way too much time trying to be Jesus rather than being like Jesus. It’s a pretty common mistake, truth be told.
However, you soon discovered your true personality. You are a man who can be self centered, full of anger, and often act out like a frightened boy. You hurt people. You cared more for your image as “God’s gift” than being “God’s gift”. You become obsessed with your own self righteousness and convinced about your general “rightness” (Need Proof? How about all the times you slagged on Mark Driscoll orRob Bell? Does that self righteousness keep you warm at night?)Look, I get it. My name is a joke too, remember? Peter, “The Rock”. Even now, as I write this from my heavenly mansion near the gates, it makes me laugh. I was anything but a rock. I would confess Yeshua as Lord one minute and then chop off ears the next. I would gulp down my share of pork rinds and yet wag my fingers at the Gentiles when my fellow Jews showed up.
Yet, I know my Master well. He would never make a joke at my expense. Don’t get me wrong, He is the Master (ha, pun) at sly irony and a good jab. But, He always had the purpose of making me better. In my case, He wanted me to be the first Pope, a job probably best suited to someone like Barnabas, a peacemaker if there ever was one. Still, He chose me, a hard headed, mercurial fisherman who could never quite get a hold of my temper.
My Lord used me to build his church and to feed his lambs. I don’t understand why. Yes, even on this side of the Dark Veil of death, there are still mysteries. When I ask Yeshua about why He chose me, He gives me a mysterious smile and says, “I love you, Rocky, that’s why.”When He said that, I then ran up the steps of Heaven’s art museum (the Michelangelo room alone blows away all art museums in the Seen world) and raised my hands.
He loves me. That’s a mystery I still contemplate. I don’t understand the Divine Love and forgiveness. Still, I got it enough that towards the end of my life, I gave myself up to be hung upside down on a cross. Boy, talk about the ultimate head rush! (Sorry, I always did have a wicked sense of humor).
Anyway, “God’s Gift”, I know you were expecting a report card. Get over it. If you did get one, it would be all failing marks. Here is the secret. Everyone would get F’s. Paul would. James would. Moses would. In other words, the entire human race.
I know you’re all about performance, appearances and trying to be “God’s Gift”. Stop. Just stop. As you look back on your forty years, you’ll see how badly you failed. You’ll see how you refused to love God by being way too interested in minor theological disputes. You’ll see how you failed to love people as yourself. You know why? You secretly hated yourself and didn’t believe the Master loved you. In order for you to really love people, you must believe that the Master loves you. “God’s gift”, you never believed it and you don’t now, do you?You should probably work on that. Just sayin’.
I end this letter with a pastoral exhortation for your last ten years on earth (whoops, spoiler alert!). Learn that The Slain Lamb really does love you. When you live in that, and show other people that love, well, then, you truly will be God’s gift.
Now, I’ve got to get back to St. Patrick’s Pub. Paul is reenacting one of his many stonings (the heavenly wine is kind strong) and Daniel the prophet is going to do his “putting his head in the lion’s mouth” routine. He brings down the house every time. Of course, there is that Tertullian guy. He’s kinda of a sour puss. Ah, well, he’ll get it in another five thousand years or so. The Lord of Lords loves all of us, his motley fools. Thank Him for that.
See you after a guy in a John Calvin costume beats you to death. (whoops, another spoiler!). It’s a long story. You’ll find out soon enough.
In the Divine Love and Laughter,
P.S. The Master Wants to add something.
God’s gift, I love you. Don’t forget it. Learn it for others.