My friend looked at me from across a table with complete honesty as he slowly put together a string of words to tell me that he felt he could no longer be Mormon.
“You’re the first friend I have told.” He said and waited for my reply.
The next few seconds were a blur as I thought about my good friend and others like him. There is so much I wanted to say that I couldn’t express at the moment. So I ran home and wrote a letter to all the people I love so much who at some point or another have confessed something similar and with heavy hearts waited for me to say something.
Nothing has changed. Not since yesterday. Not since years ago when we became friends. I think you are just as funny, just as smart, and just as capable of being happy as you have always been. I think you are strong to say how you feel. I think you are brave to search for answers that are significant and intimate to your life and situation.
I once heard a Rabbi tell this story:
I remember my student saying to me, “Rabbi Hartmen. I want you to know, but don’t get upset with me, I’ve become an aethiest.“
I said, “When did you become an aethiest?”
He said, “Wednesday.”
“Oh boy that’s a remarkable thing. What were you Tuesday? You were a believer right? And what happened on Thursday?” I said.
“Is there any difference between the way you lived when you were a believer and when you became an atheist?”
And that’s the criteria for me.
Labels and titles don’t define us. Our actions do.
In Matthew 7:20 it says, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
You would have helped me yesterday, the same way you would help me today.
And I love you the same way today, that I loved you yesterday.
You aren’t the first to wake up not feeling Mormon, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist. Our faith is a wave that pulls our souls in directions we sometimes don’t anticipate at different times in our lives.
And you have been there for me when it has pulled at mine.
I remember when you hugged me when I broke down in tears in a church parking lot. You were gay, I was anxious and we both felt like we didn’t belong there that day.
I remember the time we laid on the Idaho grass with the sun in our faces while we tried to figure out life. You were homeless and heavenless but we held on to each other.
I remember the first time I taught Sunday School and you sat in the second row telling jokes to break the ice so I wouldn’t be so nervous.
I remember the day I knew God existed, because you answered a prayer that was so unique and timely to my desperate circumstance.
And I remember the day I cried on the couch because I couldn’t find the answer to a question and I didn’t know what I was. You held my face in your hands and said you would love me either way.
This letter is to many friends, not just one. Because you aren’t alone. And because we need each other regardless of our circumstance, level of faith, or type of religion.
I am grateful for you as a friend. No matter what you are. Because you have loved me when I needed you most and to know you is to know God.
Whatever God or overwhelming happiness you believe in.
Image: Cannon Kangaroo