Happy birthday, friend!
I’m happy I’ve gotten the chance to know you. You’re intelligent, obviously, but there are lots of those people. You’re kind-hearted, too. And that’s much more rare.
It’s rare at your age, especially. I remember being thirteen years old public-school kid, no dad telling me I had 'it' in me.
Imagine me, rail-thin arms and greasy blonde hair crowding down to my eyes. It was like every day was an audition. I did the best I could—you know, auditioning so people would tell me who I was.
It’s not fun to say that I did it & even more painful to know that I lived it, but I guess I’m telling you these things because figuring out how to be a human being is hard enough.
But you and me are trying to figure out how to be godly men in the middle of an American culture that has a thousand cheap imitations of masculinity.
I’m not sure if there’s a formula, & it’s definitely not easy, Daniel. It’s just worth it.
I’ve got a unique story because through most of my walk with God, I didn’t have any example.
I’m sure that if I did, I would’ve clung to him. I would’ve talked like they did, prayed like they did, and laughed at the same jokes they laughed at. I’m still not totally sure why God didn’t make that happen.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want it. It’s just that when I did, the men either didn’t have the time, took me to monster truck rallies, or wanted to do other things like talk about all their ministry accomplishments.
Part of me hates that, but I think the deepest part of me loves that and knows that I’ve benefited from it because I had to figure out with God what it meant to be like Jesus the way that only I could be.
Because of that, giving you a bulleted list is hard. It's nonlinear & raggedy.
So maybe the best way to talk about it is in story.
It’s your story. And it's a good one. I promise.
It’s got twists and turns, hurts and heartbreaks, full of broken and beautiful things. I play it in the theatre of my mind, and in there I’ve got a belly full of cherry Coke and a big bag of buttery popcorn.
A boy grows up in a family that loves God & him.
One day, the boy is messing around on his piano when a key suddenly goes off note. He checks the key.
Still off note.
He finally checks under the keys and finds a note.
“Son, what’s inside is for outside.”
Son? The boy asks mom & dad what they meant by their note. Mom & dad have no idea. Nobody else calls him son.
Who could’ve written the note? He sits flustered on his piano chair and tries to connect the dots.
Then he believes something impossibly beautiful. You see, he’d read his Bible and heard the sermons. He’d heard that God was called Father. He thought about how God provided for his family.
He paged through images from the story he’d grown up on—you know, the beautiful before, the tragic fall, the endless struggle, and the magical rescue.
And he realized something.
God was not just a good Dad. God was his good Dad, something like a perfect parent who took full responsibility for him.
He unraveled the crumpled note and saw the next few words.
The boy thought to himself.
The boy wondered what it meant. It didn’t take long before it was crystal clear: God meant that there was something inside of him. That he’d been made with a gift inside, a love letter written in heaven and sent to a zip code on earth. He was full of… well, something beautiful.
What is inside?
The boy wondered what it was. That one didn’t unfold crystal clear. He didn’t really know. He was just a boy, after all. His teachers said he was gifted, and his parents said he was a gift, but how he was a gift in a way that nobody else was... he knew it wasn’t a door to answers but an invitation to a journey.
… is meant for outside.
That was it! He saw the design.
What was inside of him-- freckles & fears, love & longing, skills & simplicity, the creativity & complexity-- was a beautiful mosaic.
God was writing a story and had cast the boy in it. The boy realized that he was made to bring what God put inside of him as a gift to the world outside of him.
Yeah, God could do it all alone. But God wants you to join in to heal the world & make it all new again.
So don’t be mistaken: the world around you does need you. If God works now mostly through God’s kids, and the world needs God, then the world needs you.
But let’s be honest. Right now, neither of us are married. Neither of us have kids. Neither of us have a full-time job.
We’re sprouting trees now, Daniel, and those things take forever to grow.
But I pray one day that you, me, and hopefully other men will become giant oaks that love God, love themselves, love others, and aren’t afraid to bring out what’s inside them to gift to the world outside.
photo source: geoff benzing's artwork for the song "you are enough" by sleeping at last.