An Open Letter to My Family
June 14, 2022
This is a long one. Thanks for reading.
The purpose of this letter is to
(1) touch with you collectively for a final time in the spirit of Rom. 12:18
(2) communicate several things which I feel should be communicated.
My apologies for any typos/spelling/etc.
From the time I can earliest remember, the one thing I always wanted to be when I grew up was a father.
The dream was 4-5 kids, a loving and faithful wife, a partnership and a home dedicated to peace, joy, happiness, growth, intimacy, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
That desire solidified when Dad died.
One of the great burdens I remember feeling after Dad died back in 2004 was the night Mom checked herself into GreenOaks.
As the eldest son, I remember feeling the responsibility to lead; especially to take care of my brothers.
I also remember feeling so proud of Mom that night: her willingness to face her demons, check herself in, get help, and begin the long road to recovery and the healing process.
It was in that in-take room, standing behind mom with my hand on her shoulder (and praying for her like hell) that I had my first… wait for it… “vision” of Dad.
It wouldn’t be the last.
But of all of them (so far), this was the mildest (though it did not feel that way at the time.)
I was standing behind Mom, touching her, and opening up my heart to have empathy and connect with a woman acting from within her absolute bravest self; and I was suddenly overwhelmed with seeing the whole night for what it was.
Almost like in a flash of lightning, I “saw” all of it (and why). I saw a future where a broken and hurting family, as the ultimate “fuck you” to Death, got serious about our trauma and our wounds, our damages, and all the ways in which we continue to hurt each other and those around us.
I saw us healing as a family.
I saw a miracle, and I saw Mom healed, too – and I saw all of us rally around her, and support her; and I saw our family becoming the absolute, ultimate, and irrefutable proof that the gospel of Jesus is indeed alive and real in this world, and that we – miraculously – are by grace the tangible and living proof; real, and alive in the flesh.
I remember feeling/seeing/knowing that all of that, in the flood of a single millisecond – which is impossible to explain.
Even more difficult to explain was the next part.
Right when this sudden feeling/seeing/knowing happened, I felt the presence of someone behind me.
I assumed it must have been an Uncle who walked in during the prayer. Or, I assumed it was a doctor, or a family member, or someone close to Dad. It just felt that way; a presence of an actual person that is somehow connected to Dad.
My thought was “Ahh So Someone IS behind me. I felt them walk in and now they’re touching me as I’m praying. That’s so cool that they’re praying with me right now. Did this person just arrive? Why does it feel just like Dad? Is it an uncle? Should I open my eyes and see? I wonder who it is.”
That’s how real life and basic it was. Nothing grandiose; nothing delusional; nothing chemical; nothing psychological. There was nothing mystical about it. It was just a plain fact: Someone walked into the room while I was praying, walked up behind me, and was praying with me.
And that’s when this person touched me.
All the hair on my arms stood up, right when touched. It was insane; truly electric. I suddenly felt a hand – a REAL hand – rest itself on my left shoulder.
I knew the hand, immediately, just by its touch and feel. There was absolutely no question – I knew who it was immediately. I have felt this person touch me, many times before, in real life and in the exact same way that I was feeling the hand now. The hand placed itself on my shoulder, just like it had done so 1000 times before in “real life.” It is a hand that I know, full well, from experience. I know the weight, the feel, the gestures and the squeezes, the pats when praying. I know it’s lowly touch, its rest on my shoulder, its affirming movements of warmth and love.
I began to tremble once I started connecting the dots.
And that’s when I smelled Dad.
It was undeniable. Unmistakable. As if my face was suddenly buried into his chest – and for a moment, it was all I could smell.
And right away, it was as if I bit into the fruit in the Garden of Eden and could “see”:
I knew this fact: Dad was here, actually here, right now, in this very room, touching me, and praying with us.
And the Truth of that face vibrated and reverberated through my body and my bones like an electric fact: Dad is here. Right here. Right now. In this room. I can feel him. I can even SMELL him.
It is impossible to explain. I’ve also learned, finally, that I don’t have to.
It sounds absolutely insane – ridiculous. Childish. Delusional.
And I assure you, in Jesus’ name: it is not.
I remember suddenly feeling so afraid. The moment was so heavy; so “heaven-meets-earth” that I remember feeling “oh shit oh shit oh shit… this shouldn’t be happening – what is this?!” I was so terrified by the moment that the only way for me to hold it together without reacting like a person in scripture who sees an angel was to lie to my own myself; to hack my own anxiety, telling myself “It’s just a doctor” or “it’s or a family member who just got here” and “don’t you dare look – you may lose your mind when you don’t see a hand” so just suppress it – shove it down deep to where you don’t have to look at it and face it.
It was far too scary to deal with as a reality; it was so tempting to just ignore it and justify it and explain it away in my own head.
But it was too real to deny – and I could not.
I remember turning to look over my shoulder, and stopping halfway, because with every inch of turning I could smell him even more. Distinctly. Unmistakably. Dad‘s distinct scent; a sudden flood of it. Like incense, actually in the room, in my nostrils. As if my face was buried into his chest. I cannot explain this. It was overwhelming.
My eyes were closed when he touched me. His hand went from my left shoulder, and then, after while, on top of my own hand as I placed it on mom. It was the most sacred moment of my life. It felt like he was placing his hands on her through me. And I was terrified.
It was the most beautiful moment I had ever witnessed in my entire life.
And I couldn’t share it with anyone. I was dropped into a particular kind of aloneness that, in many ways, traumatized me. What was the most beautiful moment in my life was simultaneously the most terrifying.
Why should it be? Answer: because this is normal; this is what it feels like to find yourself in the presence of something or someone greater than yourself. And it’s no shock that this is exactly how people respond in scripture when they see one of the “sons of god” ( i.e., angels/demons) or encounter a “soul/spirit” of a “dead person” dwelling in the down-below of “Sheol” (ex: the prophet Samuel, “below” in Sheol, talking to Saul and the Witch of Endor).
You’d be right to hear all of this and search for an explanation in regards to a person’s psycholigical condition. That’s quite normal. And what you should know is, I have undertaken countless psychological tests, examinations, consultations, etc. in relation to all of this, by top medical and psychological professionals prestigious in their field.
And they all say the same thing: “This is very mysterious” and “You’re not crazy”
What I can tell you is:
(1) I am not involved in the things you think I’m involved in.
(2) I am certifiably not “crazy” – far from it. But don’t just take my word for it; the evidence is available to you, if you want it. If your opinion and narrative is still “he’s nuts”, know that you are wrong and that you continue to be willfully ignorant of what in me is True.
(2) I’m in good company when labeled as “mentally insane” and “demon-possessed” by Pharisees (cf John 10:20).
(3) Jesus is alive. His kingship is no freakin joke. He speaks with me, and I follow Him ~ and try to do exactly as He tells me to do – which, most of the time, is scary as hell and His directives to me are probably a SHIT-TON different than whatever it is He’d tell YOU to do [cf. CS Lewis’s concept of Aslan on this one – especially Shasta’s moment with Aslan in The Horse and His Boy]
(4) The Shepherd speaks and His Voice is heard only by those who are His sheep. That’s real, that’s no joke, and that is NOT a poetic metaphor. (Cf. John 8-9)
(5) Angels look like demons, and demons look like angels.
(6) The dead are far from “dead” – more like, “not exactly ‘here’ anymore’”
(7) Every deceased person longs for their redemption, even now.
(8) Not all deceased persons are in the same “place “
(9) I am, certifiably, not crazy -but it’s NOT my job to go around proving this to you, or anyone else, in hopes of gaining your approval or acceptance or “forgiveness” or “redemption.”
I am no prodigal son. Far from it: I have followed my Shepherd, Him and Him alone, and I have been faithful. I follow Him along every step of my journey, and I have never stopped.
The hardest part of this was, and still is, following Him “outside the camp” – away from the squeaky-clean religious moralizers and down into the dirt and mud where clean, tidy washed feet would never dare to trod.
But Jesus does.
Going back to the vision: witnessing it also made me feel utterly helpless, and alone: Who do I tell? No one will believe me. Why did it happen? What does it mean? Is my own family safe enough to even share this with? Won’t they think that I’m crazy? Wont they spread rumors about me? How do I explain this to them in a way where they won’t react, and punish me for even voicing it? What if they accuse me of being demon possessed? What do I say to all the people who I’ve taught a strict white, modern, evangelical, cessationist, and dispensationalist hermeneutic of Scripture, disparaging others? What do I tell them about the specific nature of my Gospel calling, carrying the light into the darkest places and bringing what is dead back into the light of new life? How do I give a defense for using my spiritual gifts and unique mission to leave everything behind, even my own family if that’s what it takes, to follow my Jesus into the Dark for the 2nd half of my life?
In the midst of my greatest personal darkness and confusion, I asked for one thing: “To Know You, Intimately”
And now, for the first time in my life, I finally know the personal presence of the risen Jesus ~ and not his teachings.
I have found a kinship with “lost” souls whom so-called “Christians” have (for years) burned at the stake like zealots playing the part of God by acting as His judge: judgement of a person’s heart and pronouncing their worthiness by what YOU see without seeing what God can only see: the secret inner-workings in a human being’s heart.
Listen to me: until you’ve been on a trip to “hell” with Jesus for yourself, you will never realize how EVIL and DEMONIC it is to judge another human being without the eyes of God who alone sees the heart. You will never know (perhaps you will?) just how evil Gossip is, an actual demon and invisible best friend of Christians who bloodthirstily slays life and light and love and peace and joy and growth and goodness by taking up free residency in the chatty mouths of white suburbianan evangelical Christians.
We slay the living, all day long.
It is murder.
God hates it.
And I hate it.
And unfortunately, evangelicals earn the gold medal in that competition.
I remember, years after this Green-oaks experience, sitting in my kitchen at 800 Downing in Spring 2017, the day before “moving day”.
Each of you showed up at my house that night for a surprise round of murderuous judgements. I sat across the kitchen table from each one of you as you lobbed the bombs my way.
When I looked into each of your eyes that night, I was thinking about that moment at Greenoaks back in 2009. And as each of you talked, I was inwardly mourning the spiritual isolation and disconnect that I was feeling from you in that moment. I heard your bogus accusations and delusional projections and Aimee’s manic thoughts of “grooming behavior” (which, well done, would be kept alive by Gossip just enough to be taken up again and used years as a disgusting, malicious, and convenient weapon in the hands of a psychopath looking for an opportunity to take and control and punish. And as I sat there I sensed the presence of Jesus with me in the room, sitting with me on my side of the table, and it was all I could do to painfully and tearfully chuckle at the absolute insanity of the circumstances and accusations I was (We were) hearing.
And as I sat there, hearing what you all were saying about me and instanlty seeing how those those thoughts were purposely planted and formed by manipulative and deceptive gossip and scheming, that I recalling that night at Green Oaks.
I saw it all in my mind again, and it was almost like prophecy now, remembering those fears I felt at Greenoaks and what I experience: they were all coming to life now, right before my very eyes and in my very own kitchen, sitting there with Jesus and across the table from you.
I remember staring in disbelief as I, a scholar and academic and professionally trained evangelical theologian who took advanced graduate courses on angelology/demonology (and even cast out a few on a mission trip once) – hearing accusations of “demonic influence” and “giving the devil a foothold” in college when I played with a Ouiji board.
I remember thinking: Do they think I don’t know the difference between Jesus and somebody else?
Do they know the difference?!
I remember Gabe sitting there, as Gabe always does, hating being there and just wanting the damn thing to be over and done with.
I remember seeing, right then and there, how Adam and Aimee were done and decided – judge and jury, case dismissed. Their eyes, words, and energy was louder than a gavel in court. Guilty as charged. Court ajourned.
I remember Adam’s fiery eyes of judgement and cold heart of indifference. I remember Aimee’s closed-off vision and inability to be open and connect on a heart level, being woefully blind to any perspective and explanatory theories other than her own.
I remember Adam looking at me like I was the enemy, attributing the tone of my voice and my questions/responses as “demonic“ I remember how hurtful that felt, not just because of how far off from accurate he was (you’re no demonologist) but because of his closed, hardened heart towards me as a person, and towards human empathy and connection. I felt it. It was Death. And it was hurtful.
I remember Aimee projecting her own life-stuff onto me, adamantly stating she feels SO strongly about me being sexually abused and repressing it – either by “Roger the horserider” or John O’Leary. “Those were creepy people,” she said, as she recounted her own personal memories, “and I really feel like some things happened with them that you’ve suppressed.” And thus, projection did was projection does as older sister projected HER OWN memories/thoughts/feelings/etc onto ME ~ which is itself psychologically abusive.
I remember how one week earlier, Brandon came over with Adam and informed me that, due to the family learning about my pornography/personal masturbation products that month (ie, VR goggles and a FleshLight) that I was “not permitted to spend time with their kids anymore” until they got to the bottom of my “sexual sin” and the causes behind it. I was even told not to give gifts to my nieces and nephews anymore ~ for “this is what groomers who have been abused in their past do.”
I remember sitting there, my entire family sitting opposite of me, feeling absolutely helpless to prove myself. I remember asking Brandon why he thought this, being so shocked and floored, especially as having NEVER in my life had ANY kind of accusation like that brought against me or even HINTED at. I remember asking for clarity: “What do you need from me in order to feel safe?” and getting no answers and no clarity as to a path forward where a distinction between a person’s normative sexual instincts and deeds vs “predatory” activity and “dangerous groomer” behavior.
I remember Brandon conveying Aimee’s thoughts, Aimee’s words, Aimee’s feelings, Aimee’s assumptions and Aimee’s analysis (supported by a Ggoogle search) that I MUST have been sexually abused in the past; it MUST be surpassed somewhere in my unconcious.
I remember thinking “What the fuck. Are you talking about yourself right now, without knowing it? Why you are putting your projections onto me?”
I remember Aimee touting her Google research (just like Meredith would do) and lecture me about how “groomers” have a history of being abused. They also show “preferential treatment” to their targeted victim. And, since she suspected (ie, projected) a repressed history of sexual abuse by either Roger or John, she considered me giving Griffin my old Xbox + a book from Half Price Books equivalent to “groomer activity” because…. wait for it… “I didn’t do the same for Lucy.”
And I remember feeling helpless to defend myself.
I remember seeing how I wouldn’t be able to. The pointlessness of it.
I remember feeling absolutely bewildered, panicked at being SO INCREDIBLY misunderstood. I remember being so angry with Meredith, so wronged by her sneaky deceptions, able to see her scheming and planting and manipulating thoughts and perspectives and building her narrative behind it all.
You should hear what non-Christians think about that night. Let’s just say it doesn’t make Jesus look too appealing.
And this… this right here…. is one of the primary reasons I, an ordained evangelical pastor, left evangelicalism that very day in search of Jesus ~ for I could no longer recognize him among you that night.
I have learned to accept that those projections have NOTHING to do with me ~ and that they everything to do with the persons that made them.
Psychologically, it speaks more to hidden repressed content in THEIR own unconconcious psyches and memories – not mine. This is basic psychological science 101; that’s how projection works.
Why am I telling you all of this?
I’m not telling you these things
or to blame you.
I’m telling these things to you
to be honest with you.
To speak up with my Voice
and say what I feel
because I never have.
I’m telling you these things
because silence, SILENCE,
is my single greatest sin:
not speaking up when its time to,
not saying the full truth when its needed,
not giving others the benefit of seeing the full story,
offering gaps in narrative without explanation and thus
openly inviting others speak for me and decide my narrative.
I am wrong for this.
I have been wrong the whole time for this.
And I have been silent… because of Fear.
and my wrongs
and my “sins”
are so much different
than you think…
and you need to know:
and you have always,
And thats my fault.
It was then, that final night at my house on Downing, that the core of our relationship truly crumbled.
It felt that way for me, at least. And that’s exactly where it left off.
So allow me to address it a final time:
Since the kitchen talk in 2017, you and I have spoken one time (not counting saying “Hi” at Thanksgiving ’20). And that was in spring 2019, after you, me, and Aimee had a disagreement via text message about how supporting Mom.
What I remember most is how we had a disagreement about an interpretation of of a Bible verse concerning our obligation to care for the orphan and the widow ( mom, in our case). I was advocating that it’s the moral duty and obligation of any “Christian” to look after the widow, and that (as the Bible says) the success of the individual depends on his/her care of others – especially the orphan and the widow.
You disagreed with me about this, which was fine, but it was what you said next that spoke volumes as to what you think about me:
You proceeded to tell me that I had “no right to tell anyone what the Bible says” and “no right to preach” and “no right to explain for others the meaning of scriptures” because I (in your Watermarkian view) “don’t fit the qualifications of elder” (which is what a person is when they are expounded scripture) since I’m a “divorced man”. And you told me to never, EVER, tell you anything Whatsoever in regards to the Bible or spirituality, since you have lost all respect for me spiritually.
We didn’t speak for years after that. And we have not spoken since. That was in 2019.
I reached out to you, in the spirit of Romans 12:18, as a final way to make peace with you.
I called you, as you well know, repeatedly in Jan/Feb ’21 and left you many messages told you, “I want nothing from you. I’m not asking you for anything. I’m only doing what I can do to come to you, my own brother, for one final time and ask you: Do you want a relationship? If so, what would you like for that relationship to look like? And what do you need from me?“ And I told you, on those messages, that if you did not want a relationship with me, I understand – and I’ll leave you alone and never call again; and that, for you and I to have a relationship, the ball is officially in your court now ~ that there’s nothing further I can do, that I’ll support your decision if you don’t call back, taking it as a “No”, and move on.
It’s now 2022. Y
Your answer was silence.
I want you to know that I love you.
I want you to know that I forgive you.
I want you to know that when people ask me,
“What happened with you and Adam?”
I tell them the truth:
“He doesn’t want a relationship.”
When they ask, “Why?”
I tell them the truth:
“I don’t know. I called and called. But never answered, never called back, and never told me why.”
My people are bewildered by this.
I am too.
I want you to know
that I can empathize with your feelings,
and I too have experienced the loss
of the connection and the respect
for a brother I love.
I want you to know
that I’ve honored your decision
and your personal space
and that I wish you the best
and that I want you to know
that, while I have many faults,
I am not responsible for our current estrangement
as true connection is 2-way street.
It is in,
and has been in,
your hands all along
and I have done
all I can to seek peace with you,
above and beyond and according to
the biblical command.
“So far as it depends upon you,
make every effort to be at peace with all men.”
My hands are clean.
I love you.
you and I have
But we don’t;
You are the family member
Appointed to call me when
someone needs to tell me something
I want you to know
that you don’t have to play that role
and that I don’t really consider message relay
We talked about that
in our meeting in your
backyard in Jan/Feb ’21.
I understand that relationships
are a two-way-street. However,
you’ll understand if I have some
sensitive traumas and grievances
in regards to a sense of safety in my
relationships with this specific family.
I need to be honest and tell you
that I am suspect to your motivations
when you call or text. I am deeply scarred
by the what happened last year during the
court proceedings and how Meredith deceitfully
used private communication with you to further
her lies and deception. Its not your fault; but I
believe in loyalty and that blood is thicker than
water, and that – unfortunately- there are times
when a side must be chosen. Neutrality doesn’t
exist in this case (due to a persons pathology) and
neutraility can be used to harm and take advantage
by those who are not honest with their hidden agendas.
I have to be honest and say that,
without actions behind the words,
I dont feel very convinced that
you want a relationship with me.
I know thats probably unfair to say, and I
know that the same could just as easily
be applied to myself – and it does, indeed.
But we dont talk, we dont hang out, and yet
I hear people say that you and I have a relationship
because you sometimes call me.
I want you to know how I feel about that.
It’s ok that you dont call to
just say hi,
schedule play dates, etc.
Calling for the purpose of
passing on another’s message
(“So-and-so wants you to know that _”
isn’t really a relationship; its a carriers job,
delivering info as 3rd party middle man
and I want you to know how every time
I’m always thinking, “I sure wish you called me for ME.”
that’s what a relationship does.
Know that I miss it.
And if I’m wrong in my assumption,
and if you do want a relationship,
you have my number,
and always have.
I love you
I grateful for you,
I’m proud of you,
and I wish you and yours
the very best.
You have hurt me in ways
I didn’t even think possible
in a single lifetime. And I
have voiced these to you.
And I want to thank you
for holding a space for my feelings.
That right there, is the root of
empathy and understanding,
which are the opposite of emotional abuse,
and im so so so SO proud of you.
I still believe in you,
I always will,
and I will never
give up on you.
Thank you for your willingness to go to counseling together,
something I’ve asked you to do with me since Sept 2020.
No one will ever know just how courageous you are.
But Jesus does.
Does He ever.
Know that you are one of heaven’s true heroes.
Thank for you for your humility.
It hurts me to see how much you’ve lost as mother.
I can relate to the level of loss.
And what I know is:
Jesus is Judge and King
Jesus knows what He’s doing
Jesus can be trusted
and if there’s one thing that
Jesus is really really good at
its walking down crooked paths
in order to make them straight again –
even if that path is called “Family.”
I love you.
When I reached out to you for the final time back in Jan/Feb ’21,
you responded with a voice message telling me (essentially) “Not yet, but soon.”
I told you in grateful response “Take as much time as you need” and then told you: “I won’t be bugging you or pressuring you, and will give you your space. It’s in your hands, and I’m here and available and ready – whenever you are.”
That’s still true.
The ball is in your court
and I want you to know
that I meant what I said,
and I still wait on you, and for you,
and will be should ever change or feel “ready”
I want you to know
that I am hurt by you
deeply and particularly.
And that when people ask me
about me and you,
I tell them the Truth.
It is not a fun story to tell.
I’m hoping for a better version, someday.
I love you,
I forgive you,
I release you,
and I hope you are well.
I do not blame any of you for my life.
I am not a victim of my own choices
and my own refusal for speaking out.
I blame myself, NOT because I’m guilty
of the utter ridiculousness in your minds,
but because I was afraid of speaking out
knowing that it would cost me everything
if I were to stand up
and speak my truth.
I learned that the result was ALWAYS going to be the loss of “everything”; but I had a choice: either I could do it by speaking up, or God would do it Himself. Both scenarious, however, require this one thing: Me speaking up and saying what’s what.
Ya know, shit like,
“Had a vision of Jesus yesterday
that flattened me on my back…”
“was praying for a friend and
found myself grabbed by the throat
and dragged to hell in a graveyard.”
When you’re already suspect
by your own family of being
“demon-possessed” and “a groomer”
It turns out the safest place for me
to talk about my experiences with Jesus
was never, ever with people who claim to “know” him.
Fear of rejection and judgement
kept me from telling the Truth
of my personal experiences.
But now: NO LONGER.
I know who I am.
I know what I’ve done.
I know what I haven’t done.
I know that you’re wrong, in Jesus’ name, in
all your judgements and gossipings regarding
my sexuality, my psychology, and my “wrongdoings”
The “wrongest” thing
I ever did in my divorce journey
was listen to men who told me
that Jesus was a suffering servant
who closed his mouth and said nothing
on the way to the cross.
That may be true.
But what I can tell you is
he’s far from silent in
the darkness nights of hell.
Though I have nothing to prove to you;
the Truth is available, if you want it.
Always has been.
(214) 497-7134 is the number to call.
God is my witness.
God is my judge.
God is my right hand.
I have no other,
and need no other.
I love you all,
I forgive you all,
I release you all,
and I am praying
for you all.
I miss the old days,
I’ll always cherish them,
and as for myself,
I have retired the old
and am focused solely now
on building the new.
ANd that might look different
than anything you or I could possibly imagine.
In fact, I KNOW it will.
Grace, Peace, and the Love of Christ,
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”~ Matthew 12:46-50