An email came through the Feedback portal of my website not long ago. The message was simple: “May God have mercy on your soul.”
They listed Birmingham, my hometown, as their location. That’s where I served several churches as Youth Minister and I was a Pastor for nearly 11 years.
It was signed only as Mislead Youth. (That's how they spelled it.)
I reckon we could take a glass-half-full perspective, believing that someone took the time to let me know they are praying for mercy…God’s mercy…in my life.
That would be nice.
But years of experience have made me a bit cynical.
The provided information could imply they were part of my youth ministry, and the intended reprimand was that I “misled” the kids. Perhaps it was more personal—they feel somehow “misled” by my ministry there. Or it could be an indictment of how they see me now, telling me that I “mislead” young people.
It’s probably NOT a beauty contest title: Miss Lead Youth.
Truth is, there’s no way to know. Cryptic and succinct doesn’t lend itself well to interpretation.
Let’s face it, it’s a rarity for people to send anonymous admiration messages. Or unsigned Thank You notes. These devices are primarily for judgment and accusation, couched in a protective mask of secrecy. Aren’t those words (“May God have mercy on your soul”) the ones used in old movies when someone is sentenced to death? So, though I don’t know the specifics of meaning and intent, I’m not seeing this as congratulatory.
However, it's not the purpose of this post to determine their objective(s). And because this is not my first such letter (and probably won’t be my last), I’ve learned not to take them too seriously. But this one did get me to thinking.
Granted, compared to other notes I’ve received, this one was mild. When I was a Pastor, I got several of these nameless communiques. A letter would come in the mail or would be slipped under my office door. Once, I found an envelope taped to the window of my car. The notes centered on a disagreement about my ministry, a rebuttal to something I taught, or a challenge to my leadership. Or there was the old favorite: “constructive criticism."
In the years since I came out, and especially since writing my first book, I’ve gotten many more from people of my past. They always come from those who identify as "Christian." And I learned quickly they can be very mean and cruel in the name of Jesus, emboldened by the commission of God, armed with The Truth…and hidden by anonymity.
I’ve noticed that there are usually similarities in the content. They begin or end with glowing affirmations of Christian love (“I’m only doing this because I love you”) or assurances that they are “speaking the truth, in love.” The writers typically include a divine motive. (“God put this on my heart” or “I have a word from God to you”) And somewhere in the message, the writer will offer a pious compulsion for sending it, in the form of being obedient to God. Rarely is there any room for discussion because the sender operates from a place of Truth and certainty. After all, God told them, so they know what’s best for me and my life.
But no signature!
I’ve always found this method of confrontation so…interesting
It doesn’t take much courage to write an anonymous note. It’s easier to be “God’s Messenger” when the other person can’t reply. And because the sender opted to hide their identity, we can’t have any kind of discussion or engage in a meaningful dialogue about their concerns, so there can be no reconciliation. If I've offended them personally, I would love to seek their forgiveness. But these is no signature!
Author’s Note: Do the people who quote verses to me not also read those Scripture that supposedly teach us how to approach those who’ve offended us, those we see as living in sin or those who’ve strayed from the faith? None of the processes involves anonymity! (Perhaps those who point out the “sins” of others aren't interested in their own.)
I’m hoping the person who sent the note feels better, having gotten this expression of righteous indignation off their chest.
As for me, I choose to use it as a memento. Yes, my life is very different now than it was back in Birmingham. I don’t believe all that I once believed, but I am still a believer. I don’t see things the way I used to see them, but I'm not blind. And no matter what others think as they contrast my life now, I take comfort in the fact that I told the truth—as I knew it at the time. And when I could no longer do that, I left the ministry rather than live a lie. To me, integrity is essential for the Christian.
My faith demanded that I live in honesty, (Unlike those who write letters but refuse to identify themselves!) So, I am going to rejoice, knowing that in fact, God has had mercy on my soul. God continues to show me mercy, and love, and grace…for which I am so grateful.
Thank you to the person who wrote it. I needed that reminder.