You are remaking a promise: The promise is not that you will be perfect, but that you will be alert and receptive to God’s grace. It is a promise that you made today in church, but really you must renew that commitment every time you get out of bed on every morning for the rest of your life. You are seeking nothing less than the face of God. He is there, waiting for you to discover Him in unlikely and amazing places.
Dear Alexandria and Mary Ellen,
You will likely recall with clarity these weeks in which I have existed to you as nothing more than a notional idea at the end of a cellphone connection. There have been big changes, and I must say that I am impressed with your resiliency. The burden placed on you by my sudden change in employer has been immense, and I wonder if I have made some sort of amends to you by the time you read these words. Fortunately, the long road of learning a new airplane has come to a close, so hopefully my stark absenteeism will shortly be replaced by the more normal “special guest appearances.” Such is an airline pilot’s life, I suppose.
I did manage to get home for Alex’s confirmation. I missed her eight grade graduation and Mary Ellen’s 5th grade graduation- or moving up- whatever it is that it is called. I feel miserable that I didn’t even recall the dates those events were to occur; my focus these past weeks has been exceedingly narrow. All I can say is that I am sorry. My focus in the coming weeks will be spending time with you.
I never got to talk with Alexandria much about the concept of confirmation. So, I wrote her a little letter instead while I was someplace between home and Dallas ensconced in seat 25A. I don’t know if she ever read it; Alex has developed a remarkable ability to hide her feelings. Anyway, here is what I wrote:
Today was your confirmation, and as is normally the case, I am on my way to work in another airplane. I am happy that I was there long enough to see the actual event, even if we did have to skip any sort of celebration so that I could get to the airport. I regret that you and I have had so little time to talk about what confirmation means. The time has gotten away from me in a terrible way; my work/family balance has not been good as of late. You seem to get the concept of Confirmation, but you are inscrutable as always and so I don’t know how deeply you have really thought about it. I thought I would share my views with you ex post facto; maybe you can learn early some of the things I learned much later on my own rocky and uneven journey.
Do not take any of this mean that I consider my own walk to be complete—Far from it. In some ways, you and I are in a similar place; we are both in a time when we are both analyzing and reanalyzing our place in creation, square pegs in a world full of round holes, looking for where we are meant to fit. I think this is very much the human condition: Many people begin faith journeys, fall off course, then begin again. As a people who have been granted free will, I wonder if we aren’t meant to occasionally stray from the path. If we didn’t, how else would we learn?
You know that Confirmation is confirming the promise that we made for and with you so many years ago when you were baptized: To love and serve God, profess your belief in Jesus Christ, and to give freely of your time, treasure and talents in the service of God’s kingdom. That sounds simple enough to some ears; to mine it sounds nebulous and utterly impossible. To my unfocused brain, it sounds much too big of a task for mere mortals. And of course, in a way, it is. I have been consistently disappointed in my own service, or lack thereof. In a way, that disappointment creates a convenient excuse not to serve: I am not good enough, smart enough, rich enough or talented enough to be of much use. Now, that “excuse” is complete bunk: The Gospels are filled with examples of how wrong-headed that thinking is and it is important to remember that Jesus’ own retinue was filled with crooks, misfits, the simple minded and others with pasts that would be the stuff of clickbait websites today. So, if God can make use of that crew, then he can make use of us. It is an easy dodge, though, to think of ourselves in much smaller terms that God ever has in order to avoid the hard work He demands.
So, you are remaking a promise: The promise is not that you will be perfect, but that you will be alert and receptive to God’s grace. It is a promise that you made today in church, but really you must renew that commitment every time you get out of bed on every morning for the rest of your life.
It will not be easy. I will save you the suspense: You’re going to screw up. God knows I have.
Your confirmation “event” is but one day. Your promise is that EVERY day you will endeavor to:
Find the love, even in the face of extraordinary hate
Find the beauty in what, on the surface, appears to be ugly
Find peace in a world that bends towards chaos
Look for truth in a world that says truth does not exist, or is flexible like a blade of grass (and the truth is nearly ALWAYS found in peace and love)
Be gentle in a world that worships brute strength
Sit still and listen for God in a world that demands distraction
Forgive what is unforgivable
Serve radically impossible causes that are filled with love
Fight for the hopeless, because without Christ you too would be hopeless
Accept the unacceptable tests as challenges that will deepen your faith and your dependence on God, who is the real source of your strength
In all of these things, you are seeking nothing less than the face of God. He is there, waiting for you to discover Him in unlikely and amazing places.
And, when you mess up, or when you are sad, or lonely, or angry—He is there too with shoulders big enough for all of your problems, rage and grief. His love never dies. Neither will mine for you.
So, every moment you live is another chance to rediscover and renew your commitment. Remember and serve that promise and you will live a life that is happy beyond measure, even when things are hard.
With all my love and prayers,