When my friend Jillene’s nephew was in the process of becoming confirmed, she was asked by her brother to write Marshall a letter of advice and encouragement. Drake requested that she share her thoughts regarding her relationship with God.
Jillene sent me her response, asking if I thought her words would appeal to a teenager.
In the seven years I’ve known Jillene, we have discussed just about everything, but we haven’t talked about God. Sure, we’d mentioned our spirituality and referred to our religious upbringing, but we’d never shared our deepest thoughts about God until she sent me her letter to Marshall. Reading her words of advice and experience, I found that I came to know Jillene in a whole new way. I understood her motivation in life and her path like never before.
God and our relationship with God is a pretty taboo subject even among the closest of friends and family. And with good reason. God has gotten pretty tangled up with organized religion, and it is hard to talk about one without stepping on the toes of the other. Wars have been fought–and are still being fought–in God’s name. There can be a backlash of guilt and shame if your idea of God steps out of the boundaries set up by your religion of choice. And if you don’t believe in God, you can be subjected to not only judgement but relentless evangelizing. Because of this, most of us have learned to keep our beliefs or nonbeliefs about God tucked away deep inside, somewhere private and protected. But in doing so, what do we not understand about each other?
This is why I was so moved by Jillene’s letter to Marshall–that she wrote so bravely and baldly about the God she holds close to her heart. Emboldened after bringing her God out of hiding, Jillene agreed to let me share her letter.
I have always felt a deep connection to God and my relationship with Him has developed and changed over my lifetime.
Early in my life I felt God was an authority figure. That I had to do good to be good in God’s eyes. Over the years He has changed from an observer and judge to a friend and mentor.
I feel a great connection to Him by watching and connecting to other people. I feel this connection to all people I meet and have come to know that given different circumstances, I could be in most of their situations. That knowledge brings to me great compassion and empathy. I believe we are all connected through God, and will be immersed in that connection when we die.
Where I have come to is that God intends me to “BE” the best me I can. My advice to you is to live as the best Marshall you can. To BE me is to take care of me in all it’s aspects: health, relationships, work, and giving back. It’s to feel centered and be true to myself. When I am the best me, it gives me the balance and the internal strength to then DO for myself and God all I can. I work from a place of internal strength that is a direct connection of God.
My expression of my relationship to God is to be the best Jill I can be and then to connect as deeply as I can to all people. Really listen, really be there, really engage. Celebrate EVERYTHING! This is my daily connection to God. I find it nurturing, directing, and satisfying. Love, Jill”
Reading Jillene’s letter made me wonder: What if we stripped away religion and all the rules that go with it, and simply talked about God? What if we each had to complete an assignment answering the question: “What is your relationship with God?” What would we learn about our friends, our spouses, and our children? What would we learn about ourselves?
Bringing God into the conversation tends to turn people off, but wouldn’t it be interesting if it didn’t? What would it be like if God was a safe subject? What would happen if we started talking about God?