An open letter to Susan who I used to take care of at National Community Church from 2008-2009. Susan was homeless, and distrusted men which is probably due to something dark happening in her past. Despite that she trusted me. Then I had my faith crisis and recoiled from the Christian faith and rejected it emotionally. Susan actually reached out to me in my faith crisis and I ignored her. I couldn’t tell her that I no longer believed in God at the time. She trusted me and I failed her. This tears me apart…out of 140 people Susan is someone who I tried to find and ask forgiveness from. This letter is part of my effort and its my prayer that this will find a way into her hands. Susan please forgive me, God please forgive me for not taking care of one of the least of these.
“There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of these holes are vacuums.”
Michael J Fox
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
***This post is an open letter to Susan. Susan is a homeless woman who has dealt with mental illness. When I attended Mark Batterson’s National Community Church (NCC) I helped take care of her. Susan didn’t trust men and the thinking was that she was sexually abused when she was younger and that she was never able to heal from it. Susan trusted me and I helped her out and gave her a ride from time to time to her homeless shelter. I met her through the homeless ministry at NCC. Susan trusted me, then I had my faith crisis and withdrew from everyone including Susan. I couldn’t tell her that I lost my belief in God when she reached out to me. I failed Susan and have wanted to apologize to her. Out of the 140 people she is one of the only people who I have not approached asking for forgiveness. The reason why is that I don’t know how to contact her. I approached NCC and asked for help in the past. But the homeless are very transient. My prayer and hope is that letter will one day find its way into the hands of Susan. This is a last ditch effort to try and bring closure and healing not just for me, but Susan as well.***
My hope and prayer is that this somehow, someway finds its way into your hands. Susan I met you when I was involved in National Community Church when NCC met in Union Station. I got to know you through the In-service Program. The In-service program is a program that helped feed and take care of the homeless in the urban city of Washington, D.C. I got involved after James Crestwood and his wife left for Kenya. The In-service program was a challenge as I met so many differing people who were broken and needed help. People who were down on their luck, alcoholics who drank themselves to a divorce and destroyed their life, or people who struggled with schizophrenia or other forms of mental illness. When we gave out food sometimes the need was so great. I don’t like to talk about this as I am not trying to brag but there were times where I’d take someone into Union Station and buy them food so they could eat. I also wanted to try and give them company. The need in downtown Washington, D.C. even today is great.
In the course of all this I met you Susan. Susan you were close to James Crestwood and his wife Jen. When James left for Kenya Susan wanted to hang around me. I was surprised when this happened as Susan struggled to trust men. I don’t know what happened in my mind I thought maybe she was sexually abused or abandoned. Any of these situations are exceptionally traumatic and the scars they leave on people are deep. Let me also say Susan that if it were in my power I’d take away those scars and pain so your life would be free of it. To the best of my ability I would rather carry that burden if you could be free. Susan I hope you know how precious you are to the Lord. In the course of time I hung out with you Susan. I remember how you asked me to give you a ride to the homeless shelter you lived in. I was honored to give you a ride, and loved to do that for you Susan. I remember the ways you smiled and talked about James wife in the car. I remember just helping you out a few times. Before I discuss the least of these let me go to scripture and reference the quote from Matthew 25:31-46.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
The least of these as I define it are all around us. As I learned it can invade your world in ways you never thought. I learned that at a Dunkin Donuts in Fairfax one Friday night. So who are the least of these? The least of these is anyone in a state of need. I would suggest these are examples of the least of these:
- The least of these a homeless person dealing with alcoholism.
- The least of these is a mentally incapacitated person in a retirement center.
- The least of these is an elderly person dealing with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.
- The least of these could be an Air Force Captain lonely because of the constant moving due to the job they are in.
- The least of these could be a person you know whose parents are ill and ailing and they are in anguish.
- The least of these could be a man who contracted HIV from an illicit sexual encounter on Craigslist.
- The least of these could be someone who is popular who privately deals with insecurity to the point who can’t maintain a friendship.
- The least of these is someone imprisoned for a crime they did commit.
- The least of these is an atheist who doesn’t believe in God and walks through life acting okay.
- The least of these is an elderly female that has a lot of scars and pain from being sexually abused when they were young.
In essence what I am saying is that we are all part of the least of these. All of us have needs, all of us have pain. All of us are dealing with different issues and differing needs. It doesn’t matter if you are a college student in good health, a member of the Marine Corp stationed in Quantico in the peak of your physical condition, or an elderly person in the sunset of your life. Everyone has needs and everyone is suffering or hurting to some degree. So who are the least of these? Everyone who is reading this I would suggest fills the category in some shape, manner or way. I’m a member of the least of these in the sense of how lonely I am and the health issues I suffered with in my life. When my faith imploded then I developed another need which reinforced how I was one of the least of these as well. So scripture says that we are to care for the least of these and I did that with you Susan. You were one of the least of these who I felt an obligation to look out for. And then the unthinkable happened…
Faith Crisis and Withdrawing from Community
I had no plan, nor any desire for this to happen, but it did. In the course of time my doubts overwhelmed me and I was torn apart by the problem of evil. In addition I was so burned out by fundagelicalism the only way forward was to push back and reject it in its entire form. The modern evangelical Christian church is diseased and sick. And reject it I did in a way that was unprecedented. I cut ties with about 95% of the people I knew, because in my case my life came from the local church. I was so involved and up to my eye brows in the church. But at the time my faith crisis was a complex feeling of emotions. I was frightened, angry, anxious and I was sick to my stomach at times of the Christian faith as it existed here in the United States. I wrote about it in detail the other day here. However one of the fatalities of my faith crisis was you Susan. You depended on me at times, and I worked with you. You placed your trust in me, which given your background is very brave. Then my world collapsed and everything fell though. As Abraham Lincoln once articulated…the bottom is out of the tub. You tried calling me a couple of times when I pulled back from NCC. I remember…it’s vivid in my mind the time you called me Susan. I remember being in my condo and holding my cell phone in my hand while standing in my kitchen. You kept calling and I held the phone and didn’t have the courage to answer. I was on the verge of tears because I was afraid of letting you down. Plus I couldn’t tell you that I no longer believed in God. I remember just standing there holding my cell phone and letting it ring and ring and seeing your name in the caller identification. And you finally stopped calling. You placed your trust in me Susan, and I failed you.
I failed you
I failed you
You trusted me Susan and I failed you.
Susan you have no idea how much this tears me apart today. At least with Andrew White I know how to contact him. With you I don’t know how to contact you. I contacted National Community Church in the past. Those I spoke to didn’t know who you were. The homeless are very transient and always on the move as I learned. Sometimes they just up and disappear and are not heard from again. If I knew your last name Susan I would check in at the homeless shelters one by one and ask for you. That’s how driven I am to bring peace in this area. But I don’t have a lot of information to go on and I tried to do all that I can do. After approaching 140 people and seeking out forgiveness why wouldn’t I go the extra mile for you Susan? I would…absolutely in a heart beat. The other reason why I want to go the extra mile for you Susan is the following reason. Given your history of struggling to trust men how would that help you heal…if a man who let you down and failed you came out of the blue and sought your forgiveness? You know what I would do Susan? I would take you out to lunch or dinner…your choice. I’d explain what happened, and the faith crisis I had. Then I would have a long talk and more importantly I would do a lot of listening. I would listen to your fears, I would listen to every concern and I would address each one. However long it took Susan to work through these issues and the way I may have contributed to your feeling of abandonment. What a lot of people don’t understand about forgiveness and reconciliation is that in order for it to work you have to go all the way and work through all the issues. Its not a one time phone call or meeting. Each person was hurt or wounded in different ways. This is why Andrew White I believe struggles with this topic. But Susan I would listen to you and walk you through the experience of forgiveness and repentance the whole season. I’d do this to help build your trust, and prove to you that yes there are some men out there who you can trust. I would do this for you to help build your confidence and self esteem. If I could reconcile with you one day…I would love to so I can help you heal in the long term. Yet I don’t have much information to go on Susan.
In winding this post down let me just say that my hope is that somehow…someway this finds its way into your hands. I’m a fool in many ways in life and I am naively hopeful, but I can also say that things have and will happen that will stun in me in life. Approaching 140 people had a few moments or situations which came about in amazing, and incredible ways. One can have faith, and one can hope. Susan I will continue to pray for you. You still cross my thoughts from time to time.
Susan please forgive me for having a faith crisis. Please forgive me for letting you down. God please forgive me for letting down one of your children. Please forgive me for neglecting one of the least of these, if I could do it all over again, this would never have happened.
Susan I used to give you a hug as I remember, please consider this letter to be a hug.
I love you!