Dear Russell and Friends,
Recently, J’s brother became suddenly and severely ill. Russell texted me that she was going to say goodbye as he was in a coma and not expected to live. Some of J’s family believe. Some don’t. As she stands in the middle it can hurt. Whether you believe or not, whether they believe or not – – when someone you love is hurting, you hurt. That is part of love’s definition. I said that I would pray. I wrote it down so that my promise would not be hollow. Then I ran. That is where I do much of my thinking directed to God – – prayer if you will. Then I wrote. That is where I write letters to God and leave a record of his answers and how they have changed my life. I write several times a week in a large journal. The entry is below. I’ve addressed it Dear Father as I usually do – – my title for God. As a father myself, I’m haunted and pricked each time I write those words. So many incomplete fathers. I am one of them. One father who balances discipline and love.
I’ll end with the letter’s actual sign off. Before I begin:
1) Believers – – do you pray for skeptics? How?
2) Skeptics – – would this prayer offend you? Would any?
Pascal – – 1:16
I told a friend that I would pray this week for her brother who is severely ill. He is an atheist. She doubts. His sudden fall has sent waves through a family and community. A middle aged man scaling a noble cliff fell suddenly. His back is broken and he writhes in blinding pain. Will he walk again or even live? I don’t know him, but I love him. We’re the same age. I too have fallen before. I too have been rebuilt. But what if I hadn’t. What if I never recovered the sentience to hear your whisper of presence and reassurance? What if I never thanked those who loved me despite my far flung successes and foundational failures?
I believe that you made and gifted this man. I believe that you used his gifts to enrich men whether he knew you or not. I think his metal is like mine – – an alloy of base and precious. I think his heart is like mine – – a dividing line between good and evil. I think his family is like mine – – loving him, hurting deeply, hoping for a chance to reconnect perhaps reconcile.
What if he doesn’t wake up? If he was right about you then he’ll live in the memories he constructed. His family and his work will stand as a testament to what he built and how he built it. If I am right about you let me beg you this – – when the veil is lifted, when the choice is clear – – then let him choose. You know that my heart has grown for those who deny you and even for those who hate me for following Christ. We know it is illogical to hate the non-existent. But it does make sense to hate Christ followers – – especially if they have hurt others by twisting your words or following a broad rather than narrow path. I’ve done that.
I haven’t met this man, but I love him. Please bring him back to the family that needs him. I suspect that he has much to say and that they are needful of hearing it. Please especially strengthen his sister – – my friend. She thought, perhaps thinks, that she shares his atheism. Comfort without you is thin. Please comfort her. I’m not sure what my good friend her husband thinks. He is so hopeful that science will soothe the sting of death. In my work with the dying I knew he was wrong. I sit with families facing death from different perspectives – – four this week alone. It is different.
I’m not asking for a deathbed conversion for a mind that may grasp nothing. I do not understand completely how you will save all men through the work of Christ, but I know that you will. And if this man lives to die another day please let me meet him and offer my admiration and compassion in person.