I write a lot of letters. Sometimes, I'll snap a picture of one before I send it off to fly. I'm not sure why I don't do this with all of them, but I think I will start. Reading back through old letters, written in my own hand, is like watching a still-motion picture of what used to be. Old letters serve as unwitting journal entries. When I sit down to write, I'm never sure what will come out. The letters are never edited and rarely re-read before their envelopes are licked and sealed in wax. Writing is good therapy for verbal processors like me--and I wonder if half of the reason I keep a dozen pen pals is because I need them to help me help myself process. These pen-pal friends are extraordinary. It's like we've made an unspoken agreement that's something along the lines of: I'll be a vessel for your life-processing; you grab a pen and write your crazy down on paper, and I'll mull it over for you. I promise to continue to give you a reason to write...to continue to be a sure-fire acceptor on the other end of your thoughts and hopes and fears and dreams and book-learnings and inspirational quotes.
What a gift!
Anyway, I was flipping through old pictures the other day and came across one of my rare photographed-letters. I'd like to share it, here.
My dear Friend,
NOTE TO ALL MY PEN-PALS, PAST AND PRESENT:
I would like to begin to compile all the letters I have *sent out* over the years. "That is quite a daunting and fairly impossible task, Jordan!" Yes, I know. But I'm going to give it a shot. I have put a lot of thought into a future project, and the project can only be completed if I can compile the vast majority of the letters I've written.
SO, if you have saved even a single one of the letters I've written you, you have the capacity to help! I am requesting a copy of every letter of mine you have saved. You can either take pictures of them (front and back) and email/text/FB them to me, OR you can make a hard-copy copy of it and mail it to me. Be sure the date is visible--I need to be able to arrange them chronologically.
If you haven't saved any of my letters, don't feel bad. For the love. I just happen to know that some of you *have* saved some of them, and therefore you can be of assistance. Love you forever.
I spend a lot of time with people who view the world very negatively. They see its evil and brokenness; the despair and loneliness and hurt; the pain humans inflict upon one another. "It's me against the world," they'll often say. "People suck--they're corrupt and mean to each other, and everyone is only looking out for his own good," and "I've seen enough to know better. I've travelled all around. People are terrible."
I'm not sure why people who tend toward this sort of worldview have always made up a good portion of my friends, but I know I am one of them. We are the Seers. We're the ones who notice and feel and are honest about the state of humanity. We're the Marcuses of the world--the canaries in the mine--and the world needs us desperately. The world needs those of us who say HEY, THIS IS BAD AND WRONG AND EVIL, AND IT IS NOT OKAY.
These canary-friends of mine--many of them are not Christians. Since they know I sincerely believe Jesus is The Solution, they often ask me "what good does Christianity do?" They see so many Christians who are just as mean and nasty, broken and hurt, scarred and scared as those who don't follow Jesus and they say to me "so, what gives?" "What good does following Jesus do? A lot of people follow Jesus, and the world still sucks real badly. I really don't see a point."
Yesterday afternoon, I found myself on an hour drive turned two by Houston's godforsaken traffic. I had Spotify's Rend Collective radio station turned down low and was sort of listening while doing a lot of thinking about why someone should/would even follow Jesus at all.
What is it about believing Jesus is God, who created us and then came back to save us and will one day redeem the whole world, that makes a difference at all?
Why is my automatic answer to anyone who laments The World's Problems to me: JESUS.
What is it that Jesus actually does inside a heart, inside a mind, that makes me think those who follow Him have found Truth and are better off, and those who don't have not and aren't?
It is this: Jesus Christ asks me to look at the World's Problems and then flip my eyes a hundred and eighty degrees and realize that all the problems are right here, inside of me. He illuminates the sinful nature of my very own heart and says: if this world's going to change, it's going to start with you, my dear. Let me (and Me through other people) help you see inside yourself--and your heart growing-in-goodness will begin to be one little light in this dark world.
You see, the reason Jesus is the Solution is that He gave us the Holy Spirit to turn us from finger-pointers into thumb-pointers. Finger-pointers are absolutely useless. I'm usually one of them. We look out at the world and say "they're all wrong! They've got it all wrong! Wrong wrong bad bad evil evil shame shame--THEY NEED TO FIX THEMSELVES!" But the thing is: ain't nobody I love gonna care to fix themselves until they see evidence that I care enough about the world to recognize the fixing *I* need.
Jesus says to His disciples, to us: "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24, emphasis mine).
That's how Christianity works. It starts with the woman, the man, in the mirror. It starts with ME saying not "the world sucks" but instead "I suck and need Jesus' light to help me be a light." If we all did that, there'd be all these little self-reflecting Lights running around, allowing the Holy Spirit to light up their own hearts and then in turn lighting up the lives of others.
It's like they say on airplanes: "secure your oxygen before helping others." If we run around trying to fix everyone else before we've recognized that we ourselves need fixing, the evil will continue to perpetuate itself because until we recognize WE NEED FIXING, we're merely a part of the yet un-fixed!
And so, this is my plea to me--to us. Start with my own heart before extending out. Bend my elbow--thumb-to-chest-- before straightening it--finger-to-world. When I see evil, brokenness--when the world's roughness and toughness make me bitter and frustrated--I won't fight back in kind. I will not allow the world's evil to turn me into a bitter finger-pointer. (Finger pointers are always bitter, you know). I'll extend goodness. I'll take the bitterness and frustration rising up in my own little heart, and I'll do some action of Good, of Love. I'll just try to keep being an antidote. It's the best I, or any of us, can do. When I get bitter, angry, frustrated, I'll force myself to do or say something kind that requires my sacrifice and humility--and makes the world, or someone's life, better at the same time. Habits make up a life, and if Being the Antidote becomes habitual, then someday my heart will follow my actions. Trent says: "Keep a shepherd's heart, and frustration and bitterness will only be temporary."
Oh, to live in a world where anger, bitterness, and frustration are passing thoughts, feelings. Where we individually recognize the evil rising within our own hearts and then do something--quickly--to make Goodness persevere. Where, when someone wrongs us, we do something Right in return. We take the anger they made us feel and say: "not here--not in my heart. No, thank you. Anger has no place here. Swap/Swap, now I do something Good."
Robert Brault says: "Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got." In response, Glennon says: "Yes! I accept everyone's apology!!! Not sorry?? Too bad--it's done! Your refusal to apologize is not the boss of my peace and freedom!!! When all else fails, forgive people. Drives 'em nuts."
Other people's refusal to be kind, gracious, compassionate, forgiving; to seek forgiveness, to recognize their faults, to desire reconciliation; to extend mercy, to be joyful, to embody self control is not, cannot, must not control my own, your own peace...freedom...joy.
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control--these things are all (all) greater than evil. Evil absolutely cannot stand in our hearts when the Spirit's fruits have taken up residence.
When a newspaper posed the question, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response:
G. K. Chesterton.’
That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus.
Jesus' love will fix all the "I ams," if we Listen. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are what is Right in this world. And, with the help of Jesus Christ, they can dwell within my heart. And within yours, too.
Let us begin.
hey, i'm jordan.
i write here because i think our words are worth sharing.