I started writing these "Dear God" letters some years ago now, and when I decided to put them here on the Blog at first I chose to let them stand alone. To me they were a form of prayer, and if a couple of these prayers "spoke" to people, then that would be achieving more than I hoped for when I started writing them (they were a very personal spiritual exercise at first) -- and if not, well then, at the very least it might suggest to someone that prayer can be a pretty direct form of address with God (as you understand God), and maybe that would be the way these letters might be helpful. Prayer doesn't have to be by rote, and it doesn't have to sound like you're living in the Elizabethan Age, and you can be humble without sounding like a dog that's hoping it doesn't get kicked.
As I continued writing them I became especially troubled by some of the stories that I heard in AA meetings. Stories of frighteningly harsh childhoods. Terrible consequences for seemingly not-very-terrible mistakes. Rough starts and violence against innocents and the worst kinds of betrayals. I'd heard these shares almost from the day I walked into AA (once I could actually hear what people were sharing) but this exercise of writing letters to God was changing how I viewed the world, and my relationship with prayer, and what I thought I understood God to be (which I guess was part of the point in writing them).
I was particularly moved by one Speaker -- as they spoke they were so full of light, and amazing, joyful grace, even though some parts of their story were very, very dark. I'm not saying that they were minimizing what had happened to them when they were young, I'm just saying that what I heard when I sat and listened to them was a person who had transcended their past and turned those experiences into compassion for others, a deep understanding of how hard life can be sometimes, and a powerful ability to help other people rise above their own pain -- be it in their past or in their present -- because they themselves had been there. I know my description sounds flowery, and maybe overblown -- I guess you had to have heard them for yourself. It was, in the way of AA meetings, where people open up and speak their truth, an incredible thing to listen to.
So the next time I sat down and wrote a letter to God this person's share was really on my mind. I'd been thinking about it and marveling at it and continued to be moved and inspired. But although they had transcended what had happened to them, I had not. Their faith was rock solid. Mine was shaken. "How can You allow this, God?" I kept thinking. We read and hear and see news about terrible things all the time -- none of us really live in a bubble -- but hearing this individual speak as they had put a face to what seems too often a very unjust world. So I put my fears and thoughts and disquiet into the letter, as a question. Then I sat quietly and asked for some clarity and picked up the pen and wrote the answer. I'm not trying to be ooky-spooky here. I'm not suggesting, after all the billion souls that have prayed and feared and loved and suffered and walked upon this earth, that suddenly one, freaked out, middle-aged alcoholic got the Bat Phone to Jesus -- I'm just telling you where this letter, this question and answer, came from. Make of it what you will. I have found some small degree of personal comfort from considering what it says.
I've heard a lot of people tell their stories over the years. Some are hard to listen to -- filled as they are with monsters and bad guys. I know the bad guys are spiritually sick in their way -- I have a glimmer of insight about that now -- but that insight doesn't make the listening any easier, or for that matter the understanding, either. I know You're not in the "because" business God (seems like the Religion Business trades in that coin), but I was just wondering, if you could offer some sort of response to the people who've had such tough stuff in their lives, what might You say? I'm deeply troubled, God, please... anything would help. What would you say to them?
Here, you'll need this.
It will be hard to receive from Me and even harder still to carry with you for perhaps a very long while, but you will need it to do some important work later on.
I know, I know, it does not seem fair -- and maybe it will never seem fair. Certainly you have the right to cry out, "Why me?"
And the answer might be, "Why not you?"
And although that is true enough in its way, it is a cold answer, and offers not only little comfort but a measure of fear and anger too.
But know this for true:
The artist has a vision for the clay. And no doubt, if it could, the clay would cry out as it is pounded on the table, and parts of it are removed, and what is left is spun upon the wheel and fired in the terrible heat of the kiln.
Yet the artist's vision is a good one, and eventually the clay becomes a work of both beauty and purpose.
So although there is pain -- some old that you've carried long, some fresh -- be at peace.
Surrender to the table and let the parts of you that need to, fall away.
Find your center as you are spun -- that's what spinning is for, after all.
And as for the fire... the fire makes you strong.
The hard gifts are still gifts. When you speak of them without anger you are brave, and help others to be so, too. When you rise above them in forgiveness you help others fly free of their past. When you risk and share yourself and refuse to let yesterday's pain contain you or today's fear stunt you, and you use the hard gifts you've been given to help others with their's then
you are a hero
and a miracle
and truly a thing of beauty and purpose.
And the artist smiles and you can feel that in your heart. And then fair isn't so important, and pain may go deep but it is only pain, and you may never fully understand the purpose of it all but you can be certain that there is one.
And you do the important work and you shine and you shine and you light the way for others.