I was thinking about my merry band of Affirmands this morning and about all the things I wish I could just tell them, convince them of, now when they're only 13 or 14. About God and life and faith. So they wouldn't have to figure it out on their own through trial and error. So they don't start wandering around and lose their way and get hurt and do stupid things and maybe never find their way back.
Sitting at our church's newcomer's dinner the other night there were about 15 young adults in the room, people in their late 20s, early 30s, each of them telling a little about what had brought them to LaSalle and so many of them had stories about giving up on God, being burned by the church, losing faith sometime in their teens, and now finally taking some tentative steps back, starting with walking in the door of our church a few times.
Of course, I told my story that night too. It's not all that different than theirs. Except that I'm older. And I've walked into and out of a lot more churches along the way. Lost and found my way a few more times. Keep losing it. And finding it.
And I guess it hit me again this morning, that my job isn't to inoculate these kids against doubt, it isn't to find a subtle way of chaining them to the church so they won't leave, it isn't even to create some sort of protective bubble around them so they don't get bruised along the way. It's simply to let them see where I've been, the ups and downs of my stumbling, fumbling path toward the holy. And that's enough.
I started out thinking I needed to give them advice and I realize I can only really give myself advice. So here's the advice I wrote to myself this morning.
Advice to myself:
Let it go.
All of it.
This is yours.
The heat coming in through the vent in the dining room, warming your legs, your hips, your hands.
What you do with the day.
Things will be all right.
It may take a little time, but you’ll get there.
Don’t worry about doing things perfectly.
Just do things as well as you can.
Know that you’re all right.
Sometimes you have to just shake your head and realize
You’re not God.
Nor would you want to be.
At least all the time.
Give yourself a break.
Take plenty of hot baths.
Keep a heating pad handy and warm blankets.
Let someone who loves you caress you back, run his hands gently up and down your back, like they would a fretting baby who can’t sleep.
Let someone love you.
When you’re sad, ask to be held even if it makes you cry.
Don’t be afraid to cry. Tears are the smooth stones you find next to a riverbed as you’re walking through the woods, the ones that tell the best stories, the ones you keep in your pocket then place at the foot of the candle you light when you pray, the ones that feel just right in your hand, the shape of them, the weight of them.
The scars that are them and how they ache with beauty.
Grasp the beauty.
The beauty of objects. Like paperclips. And popcorn.
The beauty of moments. Like before. And after.
Even the beauty of a bunch of people sitting around a conference table having a meeting. Each of them trying to do something right. Do something good. Say something worthwhile. Be of worth. Be loved. Not lose their job today.
How often I wanted to gather you under my wings.
Forgive yourself for not being perfect.
Laugh at yourself.
Laugh at how hard you try to get everything right.
Laugh at how much it matters.
And how little it really matters.
Silly silly silly
Life is too short not to be silly.
Whoop it up.
Speak in your British accent.
Laugh until you pee your pants.
Life will not end if you pee your pants.
Tell funny stories about yourself.
Stories that show how silly you really are.
Tell about the time you thought that guy was coming over to hug you.
His arms opening, you fell into them, like it was the most natural thing in the world, embracing this stranger, embracing him and all of the strangers of the world.
And then he told you he was actually just coming over to get his coat.
You were standing in front of the coat rack.
Bless your heart.
Bless your heart.
Remember how beautiful human beings are.
When they aren’t holding on too tight.
When the blood is flowing.
When they are leading with their hearts.
When they stop pushing away.
Pull everyone to you.
Tell them you love them.
Tell them they love you.
Tell them you need them.
Know that they need you.
Like air. And water. And blood.
And trust me on this. You might want to forgive some people. For all their bad advice.
And yourself for following it for far too long.
Touch the places where it hurts. Push hard on those tender places until the knots loosen.
It’s OK to be happy.
Let God love you.