Letter to a beloved former bishop:
Dear Bishop Baird:
Since this is a thank you note, please don’t feel the need to respond with a thank you for the thank you.
I’m simply writing — after all this time — to let you know how grateful I am for the wiggle room you gave me. I have an uneasy spirit and you were always wise enough to give me latitude — and longitude — as I sought my way.
You understood that the path to the Celestial City may indeed be narrow, but the way we think about it doesn't need to be.
Behavior, that was another matter. You were always by the book there. You believed a sin is a sin is a sin, as Gertrude Stein would say.
But you knew affairs of the mind and heart are filled with shadows and shifting light. Truth can be more slippery than a trout in the hands of my grandson Parker. (See “wiggle room” above.)
In fact, while I’m lobbing metaphors, let me say I see the human soul as a flame in the fireplace. To flourish it needs three things: fuel (the gospel), heat (the Spirit), but it also needs oxygen — fresh air and room to breathe.
Your willingness to let me breathe not only displayed your faith in the Lord, but showed your faith in members like me as well.
Not everyone has that faith.
Most of us are not trouble-makers.
Most of us are just folks who — to lift a thought from Robert Frost — must move easily in harness, or move not at all.
You saw my inbred antsiness, bishop, and you accepted me as I was. Instead of standing apart and beckoning me to your world, you entered mine, broke bread with me and blessed me where I stood.
By doing that you won my trust.
And that allowed you to truly minister to me.
Such generosity from you has made me a more generous man as well — not only generous to those who feel a kinship with me, but, even more vital, generous to those who feel estranged.