Do you ever write letters to people in your head—things you wanted to say, unfinished business, sentiments that pressed on your heart and didn’t let you go?
Sometimes I wake up at night and have a three-page letter downloaded straight into my heart.
Right now, for my father who is living* through cancer and chemo hell, parts of my letter would look like this:
I hate that you are struggling. If I could be with you in person more frequently, I’d just want to hold your hand. Pray silently. Sit at your feet. Watch you sleep. Bless you. Read you Scripture. Share a few memories. Make you smile.
I’d say I didn’t always respond the way I should have, that I often was too quick to react in my youth. I’d tell you if I had to do it all over again, I’d talk to you about your “corny” country music and be willing to discuss the different jazz artists you grew to appreciate.
I’d tell you I’m sorry I stuck my tongue out when I was 3 years old, that spitting out my peas onto your dinner plate wasn’t nice. I shouldn’t have made eating and the dinner table such a scene of drama.
I might state that I could have been more gracious when you taught me how to drive and more grateful when you would pick me up from a late theater rehearsal. While we were generationally farther apart than the parents of many of my friends, I wasn’t really embarrassed by you; I was just a teenager who thought that I was.
I would share with you that I watched you healing on that couch from radiation many years ago while you let me put barrettes in your amazing hair because that’s what you do when you have daughters. You play barbershop. I’d be less angry that you won UNO sometimes. I’d be more mindful of the times I got to “camp out” on the porch with you in the summers and wouldn’t make comments about your snoring.
I wrote a book, Dad. It wasn’t everything it could have been, but it was my first attempt. It was about God. I hope you could see the Presbyterian roots deep within my theology, Dad. How I really did understand Christ, the propitiation for our sins.
If I could just lay my head against your robe, Dad, like I used to rest it on your lap during the sermon, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I can be a spoiled brat, but my heart is trying to be more like Jesus, Dad. I hope you can see that in me. I hope I make you proud.
My letter would say so many other things, but I’ll stop there. You get the idea.
What about God, though? What about our Father in Heaven?
When we stop to consider our relationship with Him, would it look similar? Would we have those kinds of sentiments?
Would we be honest, reflective, penitent, humble, humorous, and adoring?
Would we call Him “Dad”—at least in our hearts? Do we feel that intimate with Him?
How would the letter read differently? The same?
(If a father has not been a good or present person in your life, imagine, instead, a trusted mentor or close relative who has had authority to speak into your life and show unconditional love. If you cannot think of someone for whom this description fits, consider meditating on this second letter, letting it soak in how much God can be that relationship for you. Our deep need for fulfilling relationship can only be satisfied in Him and by Him.)
Dear Father in Heaven:
If I could be with You in person, I’d just want to hold Your hand. Pray silently. Sit at Your feet. Bless Your name. Read Your Holy Word back to You. Share a few memories of my history of loving You. Make You smile. Worship You.
I’d say I didn’t always respond the way I should have when You asked for my obedience. I’d tell You if I had to do it all over again, I’d talk to You about Your prophets, apostles, scribes, disciples, missionaries. I’d read more of Your Word and meditate on it day and night. I’d consider all the promises and assurances You gave me of Your love in both testaments—and in my life.
I’d tell you I’m sorry I sometimes thumb my nose at Your precepts, take Your love for all people too lightly, get hot-and-bothered over that which doesn’t matter.
I could have been more gracious when You taught me right from wrong and more grateful when You would pick me up from a mess I was in and carry me safe to shore. While it didn’t always feel “cool” to be the Christian at high school parties or to have moral standards in my dating relationships, I wasn’t really embarrassed by You; I was just a teenager who thought that I was. I’m sorry if sometimes I denied how important You were becoming to me when I was with my friends. I’m sorry that at times I still choose seeking acceptance from others over resting in my identity in You.
I thank You that You were with me when
I was alone and afraid of a new school,
Mom was at the hospital,
I was bullied on the bus,
My aunt died of brain cancer,
A boyfriend and best friend betrayed me,
I was off to college on my own,
I moved across the country with my new husband,
A friend was murdered,
My daughter was so sick,
I lived halfway around the world on a tiny island,
I fought depression—
—and when I won.
I’ve stopped being angry that You were never there now that I realize that You were always there.
If I could, I’d be more mindful of the times I got to experience Your love through a friend, a relative, a stranger, a letter of encouragement in the mail, a sudden phone call bringing good tidings.
I wrote a book, Father. It wasn’t everything it could have been, but it was my first attempt. It was about You. I hope You can see how much I want others to know about You too, to rest in Your love, to stop struggling against Your open arms, Your warm presence.
If I could just lay my head against Your strong shoulder and breathe in Your peace. If I could cuddle on the lap of Jesus, just like the children He welcomed: ‘for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 19:14).
I can be a spoiled brat, but my heart is trying to be more like Jesus, Father. I hope You can see that in me. I hope I make You proud.
What about you?
— Bonnie Lyn Smith (@BonnieLynSmith) January 29, 2016
Sometimes mine has been angry and full of pain and disappointment, but it’s okay. We’re talking. He’s listening. There’s a conversation going on—and that’s better than none at all.
If you just aren’t sure, start with this model. I guarantee if you start writing or speaking this, it will change your life and make you mindful of the amazing friend and father you have in a Holy God.
Matthew 6:9-13, ESV, Jesus speaking
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
*This blog was first a featured column at Your Tewksbury Today. Dad has passed since this article was originally published. I miss you, Dad!
**It has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Testimony Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.
Anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).