A heartbreaking letter was recently found at a local ballpark. Written across three
notecards, the letter reads as a desperate plea. It begins, “Mom, I am so so sorry. Sometimes I feel like yall just don’t understand me.” The letter then relates the anxiety of a teenager struggling to communicate with their mom, navigate an obvious distance that has developed, and meet parental expectations. Part confession and part appeal, the letter painfully concludes, “I am sorry for making yall lives miserable. I am not good at talking so I am going to start writing to you. I am going to start telling you when I feel bad and when I’m okay. I am sorry mama. I really am. I love you!”
The letter was posted online with some hope of finding the writer to get them help and return the personal note. It elicited hundreds of prayers and many sympathetic comments. People shared their stories of traversing similar waters as teenagers or with teenagers. Others spoke of how hard it is to be a teenager today. Many lamented how the internet and social media have damaged our ability to communicate.
I read the letter as a son, father, and pastor. I could have written that letter in my middle teenage years when I struggled to express the hurt I was feeling. I worry about receiving that note in the years to come with who knows what trouble the future will bring to teenage life. As a pastor, I wonder how many people in the pew are similarly distraught? How many are concerned for their relationship with God and neighbor? Could they write so deeply and personally of their hurt? Are we doing enough to help them?
The lectionary has found us in Job recently. I just preached from there a few weeks ago. I have listened to some of you preach from there too. Perhaps this season lends itself to that book. Job is essential reading for Christians and so are those later chapters in the Gospels. To be people of the good news, we must know the bad news, too. We must know sin and death to understand new life and hope. More than that, we must be able to speak to it and even write it. “Pie in the sky after you die” is of little comfort when we cannot speak to the current jeopardy of life, as well.
How can our churches encourage that interior work? We do struggle. We struggle with relationships, communication, sin, and brokenness. We grieve the death of so many at the hands of COVID-19. We navigate, in better and worse ways, the changing landscapes of religious, American, and global society. The stress and anxiety of these dynamic changes are real. This continues to be an unprecedented time. How can we empower faithful Christians to wrestle with and speak to their struggles in this time?
I hope they reunite the child with the letter to his mother. I pray for that relationship and its struggle. I have a similar hope for us in our relationship with God and neighbor. First, that we could write something so honest. Second, that in expressing that struggle, we may bridge the divide.