How Do I Belong To You?

A Letter on Giftedness
April 19, 2010
To You, Friends: Where We Are Called
April 24, 2010


It is difficult to imagine I belong more to you than to anyone. There is no shortage of fault in me, as you well know, but you have nonetheless made me integral to your family and part of the noble goals you unswervingly pursue. It is hard to believe I am admired in the same breath that I admire.

Perhaps this belonging is even more strange to me because I have given you reason not to accept me. I am not quite the Augustine of my day—either in licentiousness or in feverish dedication to the Gospels—but have lived a bit of both. Which is why I so readily expect voices of judgment to fall with voices of praise. Augustine is a saint, yes, but he was a sinner first.

For my own part, I am forever thankful that you have afforded me this strange embrace, however strange it seems to me. Indeed, I could spend my life in constant apology, but you have admonished me, and told me to see to the needs of the world in accordance with my gifts. I confess to you, I had forgot even these gifts which you recognize. How blinding is the work of self-condemnation! But enough, as you counsel, and onward to call and wisdom.

It occurs to me, while I am certainly blessed to be among you, that it is neither my doing nor yours that precipitates this great bond we share. For the circumstance, and the ability, and the will which enables choice; and all these things and all their ilk are nothing we have made. Confessions reveal decisions of a sinful nature, but I confess my absent gratitude above them: Where should I be, if I did not have this life, these friends, this counsel, these blessings?

I have long since spoken to you of my devotion to the will of God, and recount those words which ring true even still: “I am confident in this at least: That the life of my flesh will persevere so long as I am able to perform the good acts which God has designed for me, and which he has commanded I should do according to his will. And when these things are at last accomplished, I may pass away. Therefore, I care little for whether I am sick or well, happy or sad, rich or poor. For in these, with these, and through these, I will do what is in my power and my call for the greater glory of God.”

How may I know when my work is done? But I put the question behind me. For what claim do I have on the answer? Too long I have not trusted my God to care for me and lead me onward. It must end, or what at all will I accomplish, save that which in my own mind is best? My mind is a feeble thing; I would not trust it with my life.

I carry on, as you, in the hope of salvation and the joy of the good work I am even now doing. Whatever great ills befall me, I will spend my energy giving life over to God, for his will be done in the heavens and on earth and under the earth. And all knees will bend at that ending day, and all tongues shall say that God is our hope, our love, and our redemption. “This very day,” the Lord consoles us, “you will be with me in Paradise.”

My peace I leave you, brothers and sisters, and a hope in the great future that is guided by the right hand of God. Be well in all the work you undertake, in all the lives you lead, in all the promises you keep in love and joy.


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