A long-winded, heart-felt attempt to help a skeptic friend…

 


Draft: September 10, 2001


 

 

[Introduction: I received a long, detailed question-letter in the Fall of 2000, which took me a year to get to, and a long time to write up…I have attempted to maintain the flow of the original letter here, although excising the more personal and confidential elements…The parts that I am posting are ones I suspect might be of wider interest to others…This introduction is the post-script that I appended to the front of my letter to the person…the actual content of the letter follows after this…]

 

Dear friend,

 

I am more than a little frustrated at the scatter-shot nature of my remarks below. Most are dealing with methodology, or what I consider 'incomplete inductions' on some of your positions, but I am not very optimistic about being any better at communicating clearly or helping you see the quality of my personal experience than the majority of those people who tried to help you in your other 'skills training' experiences…your comments about practical wisdom-guides is to the point--the vast majority of my spiritual development and thinking has been FORCED upon me by my failure to find these guides myself (of course, I have been deeply impacted by a number of Christian thinkers, but too often the 'translation task' was missing), but my failure to find them doesn't mean, of course, that they DIDN'T exist (the reverse of 'wishful thinking' I suppose)…I have been personally so often misled by Christian 'slogans' (possibly because I took them as absolutes, and not as 'local' , your-mileage-may-vary principles…and I began later to wonder if most people KNEW that then, and it was only ME that tried to universalize that which was not meant to be so).

 

I have often felt so helpless to help others in my life--to my kids, to my wife, to my family, to my friends, and often to sincere hearts who ask questions on the Tank…I tend to throw every thing within arms reach to them, in my almost desperate desire to be of help, for them to perhaps use in their challenge. I never seem to know what will help someone, and my temperament creates a strong presumption of failure and uselessness…But sometimes the thing I expected to be least-helpful, turns out to be thing most useful to some heart…So, I cannot pretend to know IF and WHAT of any of this vast amount of rambling, confused, flailing-about prose will help you, friend…

 

I have read and re-read your emails and letters, to try to get some insight into what might be useful, but I do not seem to have a good track record on that, so I give up…

 

As a consequence, I have tried to respond to just about everything you mention, without repeating the old standards…I have no interest in arguments, and I no longer think that's really your holdup, but my semi-goal was to TRY to get some halting words and vague outlines of this experience out, for your 'inspection'.

 

If you were a servant in a warm castle in dead of winter, and I a freezing traveler in the snow outside your doorstop, you might invite me in to warm myself by the fire in an inner room. But I, looking through your open doorway, would see no fire, but only the fireless outer room, and I would have to trust your promise that I could get warm 'if I only stepped inside', judging the legitimacy of that promise on the basis of characteristics about you--the fact that you were not dressed heavily for the cold, that your hands actually felt warm, that you SEEMED to radiate honesty, and that you could make descriptive statements about the fire. If I insisted that I would not take that first step into the castle until I could actually SEE the fire in the inner room, I would obviously have to stay in the cold…

 

Of course, if your hands were COLD instead of warm, you were shivering, and you were dressed in heaviest furs, I would suspect duplicity, and be wise to take my chances with the snow and wolves, than with a fellow human with dishonesty in his heart, leading me into who-knows-what treachery…

 

I feel a little like the servant in that story…I am very, very warmed by the Fire but am limited to sharing with you the warmth of my hands, my 'non-verbal' expressions, the way I dress, and the grossly insufficient language to describe such a robust thing as a fire…

 

You may decide on the basis of my writings here and on the Tank, that my hands might not be warm enough to provide evidence for the existence of the Fire, or that my manner of dealing with 'questions' and/or 'people' might not be honest or 'objective' (like your opinions of the apologists you mentioned in the last email), or that my manner of arranging my life reveals that I really DON’T believe there's a Fire warming me.

 

But what else can I do? All I can do is open my heart and my head and my understanding of my life to you, pour it out before you, and ask you to 'look at it' and 'judge for yourself'…In many ways my life is an abject failure, and in some ways it is of world-class quality…I can probably make you feel my frustration and discouragement about these ramblings of mine being of ANY help to you, but I cannot show you the tears I have as I write this, nor the fear that--through some slips of pen, or poor word choices, or insulting images in my flood of words below-- I might 'drive you even FURTHER away' from approaching the only truly trustworthy Person I have ever known.

 

Some of the things in your letters remind me of myself, but others don’t, so I cannot assume that we are alike. The first 20 years of my life were spent trying to protect myself from others emotionally--I believed that no one could be trusted, I believed that no one really cared about my feelings. In spite of heroic efforts by my family, no doubt, I somehow came away with the felling of "no teachers, no one to lean on and learn from, no one to help me get to the water so I could be healed"…so I never learned how to trust anyone…I looked good and adequately-adjusted and played the role, but it was constant fear, fatigue, and despair. My best efforts at finding some peace always came up short…

 

And then, I felt a pair of warm hands--for just one night--and took the step into the castle. It took probably ten years of the Lord working on my life to thaw my heart and soften my fears, for me to grow to even trust Him fully…I began small, grew slowly, but over time I came to see His real heart--not that taught by some of the more 'traditionally sterile' groups--and trust/faith became a doorway to freedom I had never imagined…

 

At 50, I am still having to learn to trust others…the incredible barriers I had constructed are only now coming down, brick-by-brick, slowly, with some fear…I might could accelerate the process with therapy, but cannot afford it right now…but it is happening…my hands are warming by the Fire…

 

I am rambling and crying and am overwhelmed with god-knows-what emotion right now, friend, as I write this…

 

I apologize up front for the "slips of pen, and poor word choices, and insulting images"  that will undoubtedly occur below, but please know, dear lady, that I have taken your need and quest with utmost sobriety and utmost concern. I have tried so hard to not pigeonhole you into various categories of "skeptics", nor to make assumptions of your goodness, motives, and openness, except in a positive direction. Your stories about the animals and your learning experiences in that field, and your reading those books I initially recommended to, lead me to believe your sincerity and openness.

 

You may judge me as ignorant, obscurantist, and misguided as the rest (and in need of psychoactive medication, perhaps…smile), but know that my heart in this has been motivated by a small replica of the same Love that He first showed me, now 30 years ago.

 

So, doing the best I can, here we go…

 

 

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