You do not know who I am, and I have never met you, but a friend of mine told me he has been greatly helped by your wisdom and he gave me your address and urged me to write. I trust you will read this email and give me some answers.
I am writing to you because my Christian life is a disaster and I have nowhere to turn. I am in a position of leadership in my church and if I shared with the pastor or any other deacons the way my life is, I do not know what would happen. I know I would no longer be welcome in the church. I pray you will read this and be able to help me.
Let me say upfront that if you saw me in the context of the church, in the weekly meetings, in social gatherings with other church members or teaching my adult Sunday school class, you would never imagine that I am not the person you see.
I did not set out to be a hypocrite. From the very first I gave my very best to live for Jesus. I have disciplined myself to pray every day and read and even memorize scripture. I honestly set out every week to live for Jesus. But I fail every time. The life that my family and the people I work with see is very different from the one that is portrayed before the church. I have a terrible temper that I cannot control however much I try. I wrestle every day with lustful thoughts and when I am out of town on business I watch pornographic movies in the hotel room. I have a brother I have not spoken to in twenty years and cannot bring myself to forgive because of a betrayal of confidence that deeply hurt me. If Christianity is loving as Jesus loved then count me out.
But above all I do not love God; I do not find joy in prayer or bible reading - it is something I do because I have been told that it will nurture my Christian life. But my heart is not in keeping His commands and being with Him; in fact there are times I have to admit that I envy the world - they look a lot happier than I ever feel.
Maybe I have continued to live this way for the past ten years because in the church I can get by with a veneer that satisfies my peers and leaders. You know what I mean by veneer - the rules of the subculture we evangelicals are part of. I went over them the other day. We are the people who do not do certain things; we do not go to certain places; we do not smoke or drink liquor, nor do we dress like the world, especially our poor women! As long as I keep these rules everyone thinks I am a great Christian.
But in the last weeks I have faced myself and realized that the Bible primarily addresses my thoughts, motives, and relationships not so much the lists that I spend my life trying to keep that have been given by the church. Above all it commands me to love God and delight in Him, to obey His commands out of love for Him.
I miserably fail. The truth is I do not love God. It would be more correct to say that I am afraid of Him and go to church and pray because I am afraid if I do not, I will go to hell. I look around at the others in my church, even my friends, and wonder if they are living in the same craziness that I am - and why not? They do not know what I am really like. Do they scream at their kids and sneak pornography when no one is watching? Do they go through all the words and motions on Sunday while their hearts are untouched and without love for God? Is their religious life like mine, just a millimeter thick mask over the real person underneath?
There have been times when I think that I have had an experience of God. At special meetings when hands have been laid on me I have felt a warm glow inside, the flickering of a joy that has lasted for a couple of weeks and I have wondered if that is how real Christians feel all the time. At times I have heard a message that lays out a formula for living as a victorious Christian and I have tried it, but it feels artificial when I try to live it out with the guys at the office. All my spurts of hope that I can live this life are dead ends and leave me in greater despair than before.
In the last weeks I have looked at myself and evaluated what my life is really like. It has left me in utter despair. This letter is my last attempt to ask someone I can trust if the Christian life can be lived by ordinary people like my friends and me. Tell me honestly, is it for a few unusual people who do not have the desires that we have, who really do hate the world and love God? And if it is for everyone, then is there something I have missed. Is there a level of dedication or an experience I need to have that will finally get me living the Christian life? Or is my life as I have tried to describe it to you as good as it gets?
If my experience of Christianity is as good as it gets then I will quietly walk away from it all. I can no longer live a life that is so incredibly shallow and meaningless. Please be honest with me - if you tell me that this is the way Christianity really works out in practice I will not tell anyone you said so; I will burn your response and drop out. There is a Bible study and prayer meeting at the church tonight and I do not want to go; in fact I have no interest in being there. If I go, it is because I do not want to go through the hassle of being asked by the pastor why I was not there or of having my friends think I am backsliding. But I think I will stay home because I am sick of this game. Please answer me and be honest with me, whatever the answer is.