dear friend,

You are in the darkest place your soul has ever known, and my heart hurts for you because I’ve been there too. It is beyond lonely. The voice of shame and accusation feels stronger than the voice of truth and love, because you feel more acutely aware than anyone around you, even your dearest loved ones, of how deep your sin and darkness have run, how far they have taken you from the person you thought you were, the person others thought you were. You wonder if your life was a lie, and it feels near impossible to even imagine yourself regaining any resemblance of that life again. You don’t know where to turn. You don’t feel you can fall any further and yet you feel you can never move forward again.

I want to say some magic words, pray some magic prayers, give a hug somehow strong enough to bring your heart back to freedom. I hurt because I cannot, but I hope because there is One who can. Oh my beloved Christ, He never gave up on me, though I ran, though I cursed, though I protested, though I shook my fist and said it was impossible for me to come back to life, I’d gone too far. I thought I understood grace until I didn’t understand grace. I had made such intentional choices against the One who gave up His life for me. Who forgives that? I deserved my emptiness. But He was stronger than the grave of my heart. He ran to me and wept over me and sang tenderly over my sick and broken spirit and loved me back to life. He will do the same for you. Maybe you have never fully understood the grace you preached, but maybe now, now you will, more than before, more than ever. Your life can still count for good, because of Him, because of the Gospel.

Friend, you may not believe me, but I still respect you as much as I ever did. Not because you are the hero you felt you had to be, but because you are my dear friend, because you are a child of God, that’s all, that’s enough. Please don’t walk away from the ones who love you. We won’t leave you, we won’t shame you in our words or our thoughts, we won’t. Please just let us love you.

How to accomodate dinner reservations for 940 people with only five chairs at the table

After I sat and briefly greeted the birthday girl, I checked in with my 661 friends and told them all what a lovely evening it was to celebrate a birthday at this fantastic Hollywood restaurant. Six friends told me how they too had eaten there and suggested some dishes. Two friends lamented about how they had to work that evening. One friend mentioned she liked my haircut, and another friend asked a side question about whether or not I got that email she sent me yesterday. Meanwhile, the birthday girl was eyeing the menu and said something about how she had been craving gnocchi lately. I looked away from my entourage for a few moments to discuss the menu options with the birthday girl, secretly slightly dismayed that so few of my 661 friends liked where I was for dinner that evening.

We ordered our food, and of course I had to take the obligatory photos of each dish to then show to my 661 friends. It wasn’t that they had asked for the pictures, but I figured some among them might want to know what I was eating that night. And see, some in fact did. There was one especially fancy dish that caught so much attention and food envy that quite a handful of people from my entourage kept interrupting my conversation with the birthday girl with their oohs and MMMMs. I knew someone would like the photos. I was loving their reactions. Oh. Oops. My food was starting to get cold.

After dinner, the miniature cake with the candle arrived for the birthday girl, and another gal who sat at one of the five chairs at the table snapped a picture of the birthday girl blowing out the candle. My 661 friends waited so patiently as the five of us sat and chatted. Meanwhile, the birthday girl turned to her other 274 friends, and showed them her birthday-candle-blowing picture. We had her open gifts and cards, clinking our glasses of wine to wish her a most wonderful upcoming year, but she suddenly seemed just a touch distracted, as if waiting for something to happen. But she smiled and we smiled and the night went on, and eventually we all pushed out our five chairs, hugged, and headed towards the door.

Suddenly the birthday girl blurted, “I can’t believe none of you four liked my birthday-cake-photo!” Bewildered, we reminded her that we were sitting next to her, celebrating with her at the time of the photo. She was grateful for that and all, but she really did wish that we had liked her photo.

As I walked to my car, it appeared that my 661 friends had gone on their way and had all quickly become quite busy with their own things. I suddenly felt a little bit lonely. I don’t know why I was so surprised that they all had so easily forgotten about my fun evening out over a lovely dinner. After all, they had been there too, hadn’t they?

When I got home, I looked again at my friend’s birthday-cake-blowing photo, and I did like it. It looked like it had really been a nice evening spent together with friends.