I love letters. There is something special about receiving and sending an old fashioned, hand written, snail mail piece of paper, tenderly and considerately crafted. Maybe because technology has become our quick and primary form of communicating, or maybe it’s that letters innately hold some different value, but I get far more joy from reaching my hand into the mailbox than opening up my email. With that said, I think the thoughtfulness and special quality of letter form is the best way to write what I want to express to all of you: gratitude. This isn’t exactly on a tangible piece of paper, or in the mail, but hopefully my thoughts of thankfulness to you will be adequately received in this letter. So here it goes…
Dear Friends and Family,
For what, you ask?
For being you. For doing all the little things you don’t realize you do that have far more impact than initially understood. Thank you for loving your kids, for loving your church, for serving your church, for being faithful to your families. Thank you for working hard, for sharing your hearts, for seeking to grow, and seeking to love and be loved.
And thank you, most of all, for being a part of the Church; for calling yourself a member of probably the largest “organization” in the world. It is through your commitment to Christ and his heaven-bound but earth-grounded family that I have come to a fuller understanding of community, of love, and most importantly, the character and goodness of my heavenly Father.
Some of you are probably familiar with my recent family history. My sister, Lyndsay, has written on a couple occasions of the hardships that we faced. In less than a year, our dad went to prison as an innocent man, and Lyndsay found herself with the grave and life changing news that she was a cancer patient, at age 26. Looking back, the whole thing seems kind of ridiculous. How could so much happen to one little familial unit at one time? And while I couldn’t necessarily say that I am thankful, per se, that those things happened, I am so grateful for what happened in the midst of them.
I saw all of you, the Body of Christ, act in a way that astounded me. I was away at an internship while most of this happened, but I heard the stories, and I witnessed the goodness. I saw countless friends and family members gather daily in a courtroom for weeks to support my dad. I saw people give their time and money to feed us meals, to provide us with family vacations, support my dad financially in prison, and drive at length, just to visit and give him a day’s worth of company and encouragement. I participated with dozens of other people as we crowded behind my dad on a stage as he shared a tearful and unfinished testimony at church over several services.
I heard of all the people that visited my sister in the hospital, who loved her and loved my family and prayed for us and with us.
And even miles and miles away in the middle of nowhere, I was the recipient of all this goodness. Friends there and friends from home enabled me to come home and be with my family in a great time of need, no charge to me.
I wouldn’t say that this time in my family’s life was easy for me. But my frustrations and confusion and pain were trivial and mitigated in the light of the beauty I saw in the Church being the Church. You were the face of love, the face of joy and selflessness, the face of the seemingly abstract goodness of God’s nature that can be so hard to pinpoint or understand.
Many of you reading this might not know about all this that happened and you might not have taken part directly in this love fest my family experienced. So why am I thanking you? Because you are a part of the Church, the Body of Christ. You are a part of my greater kingdom family, the kind of family that transcends time and circumstance and earthly dwelling and location. Every day, you do things that contribute to the DNA of the Church that caused others within to act on behalf of my family. Every day, though we often focus more on our shortcomings, you obey Christ, you are faithful and obedient in some way. Every day, you serve and love and give and live out the Gospel. You love the people near you. You serve and support your family and friends. Every day, you are the hands and feet of Christ, the extension of his will and his love. Every day, you “pay it forward” in a sense.
You might think that you are one insignificant person who doesn’t really make a difference. But each one of you is a member of something. Each one of you contributes to this greater something that was responsible for the strengthening and encouraging of my family, and continues to be so in different ways. You are the hugs, the hands to hold, the listening ears, the encouraging words.
I recently read a book about a guy and his journey as a celibate homosexual Christian. One of the issues he brought up was his desire for deep, intimate and meaningful relationships with people and his simultaneous loneliness. He talks about how we think that all we need is God and we’re set, which is true, but that God can fill those places of loneliness with humanity, and more specifically, the Church. He can be all we need through our family around us. This struck a chord within me as I reflected on the reality of the truth of that statement. There was no escape route in the midst of the turmoil my family faced. There was no visible restoration. My dad wasn’t let off the hook and my sister didn’t experience immediate supernatural healing. There was only you, and Christ’s love manifested through you.
Thank you, for all you have done and all you do. Thank you for what you did for my family, for what you did before that, for what you do now, and for what is yet to be seen. Thank you for being who you were created to be.