A while back a friend of mine who’s also kind of a counselor, pastor, and mentor challenged me to do some writing and reflection around the part of myself that is and isn’t part of me. Often we look at our bad habits, mistakes, and missteps as forgettable aspects of ourselves that we wish weren’t there. Sometimes we even go so far as pretending they don’t exist. While talking this through with my friend, he made a photo copy of a letter that an author named Brennan Manning wrote to this part of himself entitled “Dear Imposter”. In the letter Manning addressed his imposter honestly and without shame, telling the truth on himself and an aspect of his life that is both a part of him, and not his true self. All of this was a way of bringing to light that which is hiding in the deepest shadows of our selves, allowing those cold places to enter the warmth of light.
So here is my letter written to my own imposter.
I’m not totally sure who you are, still trying to figure you out. What I do know is that you are part of me, and you’ve been with me for as long as I can remember. I’ve never really addressed you directly, you’ve been more like a secret friend that I hang out with from time to time. We’ve had some fun times together. You’ve been there for me in moments of pain and insecurity in ways that pretty much no one else has. When I felt the deepest sadness about my body to the point of shame filled tears, you provided me escape into a world where I was longed for. When as a child dread filled my soul in the locker rooms, playgrounds, pools, beaches, dance floors, and classrooms, you invited me into a world far away from the total and utter rejection that was hurled at me in those battlegrounds. When self doubt was so crippling that I could not move, you believed in me, though I’m learning that the me you believed in is not me at all, but maybe you, my dearest and oldest imposter friend.
Having you as a friend has had its benefits, though they’ve been tangled up with with other things like the way my headphone chords get knotted and twisted no matter what I do. I can’t be certain, but I think if it wasn’t for you, I would have acted out in my non-imposter life in ways that I may have regretted. You’ve taught me many things, and given me many highs, but you’ve also confused my eyes and left wanting my brain.
Now in these days where the weight of our beautiful and messy congregation rests partially on my body, soul, and mind, your company has risen to the occasion in the midst of the loneliness of leadership and being a pastor. Whether or not I should, I feel like I carry peoples pain, peoples stories, and even people’s hope. And in my own pain and secondary trauma, you stayed faithful. You’ve given me hours upon hours of escape, alone, just you and me, riled up on pixels and spirits. You’ve grown nearer in these last few months, and our time together has grown longer and more often. We’ve toasted our glasses on many nights, enjoyed countless films, feasted often, and disappeared together through the digital threshold in the palm of my hand into that old, new, and ever expanding universe of fantasy.
Old friend, whoever you are, it’s been real. But today, as I type on the dinning table of my still young family’s condo here in a city where we have created home and ministry, I need to say goodbye. I can’t keep you in my life anymore. I know that you’ve been there for me, but you’ve also, over time, molded me in a direction that I can’t keep going.
And our old hi-jinks are making it worse, not better.
And so in the words of a man who had a friend just like you, I have a goodbye gift for you. I want to take you to where deep down, in the unsearchable depths of your being you’ve been yearning to be, “into the presence of Jesus”, that some how was there all along. I know that you might get jealous and miss the times where it was just the two of us alone, but this is what I want, this is what I need. I don’t know exactly how this is going to work, especially because I don’t know exactly who you are, but I’m going to use that ancient, messy, and misunderstood word here- faith. I’m going to have faith that the words of Brennan Manning to his imposter friend can be real for us. That, “the longer you spend time in the presence of Jesus, the more accustomed you grow to His face, the less adulation you will need because you will have discovered for yourself that He is Enough. And in that Presence, you will delight in the discovery of what it means to live by grace and not performance.”
Your old friend, Chris