Dear Mr. Colbert,
I know you are very busy getting ready for your late night talk show.
But I would like to ask a favor.
Before I ask it, let me give you a little background.
I am an older woman who bore three sons many years ago. When they were all under six, I went back to graduate school. The long and the short of it is that all through the time while raising three sons and going to graduate school to become an evolutionary biologist, I was (and am still) an avowed card carrying Baptist Christian. (Okay, maybe not card carrying, because as far as I know, Baptists don’t give those out. At least the Baptists haven’t given me one, which could be because I am actually quite inept at the Baptist part of Christianity.) I live in Houston and am in the Statistics Department at Rice University.
About ten years ago, something awful happened to our family. My oldest son, Jake, at 27 was killed in a four wheeler accident. I remember walking down the street in my neighborhood a few short weeks after he’d gone to Heaven thinking how much I hated where my life had gone and then feeling instant remorse because of how blessed I was to have two sons who although they grieved with me, still created a space in my heart for joy. Still do by the way.
So here’s the reason I am writing to you. About a week ago I read your article in GQ. You know the one where you said you loved the thing that you most wish hadn’t happened? The one where you said that sorrow is inseparable from joy. The one where you said your Mother was broken but not bitter. The one where you gave your Mother credit for showing how faith turns awful, unspeakable tragedy into joy?
Well, that article made me stop right where I was and think. I compared myself to your mother.
I know that I was and am a broken mom about my son’s death.
I know I did not and to date have never been tempted to turn any of my sorrow into bitterness.
But… I did wonder if I have reflected the joy that surely does inhabit my life, in the same measure as your mother. As you articulated in the article.
At the very same time, your avowal of joy, those words from the heart soothed me. They made a difference to me. I don’t want to mislead you into thinking I have moped around for ten years. I haven’t. But have I fully embraced the joy available to me? Perhaps not.
About two years ago, I was walking on the grounds of a place here in Houston that might surprise you. It’s a theological library. Perhaps one of the best in America, certainly the most astounding one if you want to count it has been built by a single individual. The purpose of the library is to learn and spread truth. For me, it has been an avenue to think through what I believe is true and what I can know is true with regards to Christ. The library regularly hosts talks from theological scholars around the world. It was with a group of those, as one of them asked my ‘story’, in answering I realized how much I had learned of the majesty and grace of God since and because Jake had gone to heaven. You would call what I was experiencing the beginnings of joy from brokenness. I was realizing that I loved the thing that I hated had happened.
Curious to me, but perhaps not to God, it seems that part of my ongoing education about this world and my role in it were strengthened by your testimony (don’t really like that word) in the article. Your ideas of joy and the role it plays here in this time are fleshed out a bit more in the prayer of my own heart now, one more chink welded into the armor of my faith.
Here’s the deal, Mr. Colbert.
I would love for you to come to that library I mentioned. I know the owner. I could get you a person on person personal tour. Why do I want this? Because as much as I believe in the truth in science (and I do!), I believe in the truth that there is a being, way above us, that of late has not gotten the proper press or recognition. If you are “one of the country’s few public moral intellectuals”, although I am not exactly sure what is, I think the owner of the library might be another. And I think that given the collective intellectual power and the visibility (he’s famous in his sphere), between the two of you, it would be an activity full of Grace if you two could meet and see what God might do with that.
Frankly, Mr. Colbert, I think our nation needs the truth about real joy. At least we need to be having intelligent, informed conversations about it. I think there are a lot of people with similar stories as ours. They need something real and true. Something that doesn’t focus on selfish pursuits, banks on church rhetoric that seems not to have shown the love of Christ in the past, or masks doubt in refusing to allow questions. I think we need it as much as we need scientists to tell us about the astounding world we live in. Actually, I think we need it more.
So will you come to Houston at your earliest convenience, if just for a day, and meet the owner of the library, Mark Lanier. I will make all the arrangements.
I look forward hearing from you,
PS Please forgive the way I have sent you this letter. I wasn’t sure how to get in touch with you otherwise.
Nice letter. I tweeted to Mr. Colbert.
It would be so incredibly wonderful if he would come to the Lanier Library. So much joy would be shared!
I continue to be amazed (by you/your writing) every week – but why should I – I should be used to this by now, but I’m not. This is a powerful, tender, personally revealing essay. Thank you again.