Since moving to Alaska, I travel to Pennsylvania twice a year. Despite a northeastern storm canceling my plans this past spring, I was still able to travel to PA twice this year. On my second trip, I had the intentions of driving back to Alaska with a van. After processing everything, my dad and I decided it was best to wait until the summer of 2019 when I will be home for a friend’s wedding. That same friend is my editor PJ, who I am grateful to have in my life.
Due to the distance of my new home (Glennallen, Alaska) and the cost of travel, no one has been able to make the trip to visit me here. To be fair, I’ve never thrown a housewarming party. My trips home have been primarily for fundraising/vision casting or weddings. Thankfully, I have only made one trip for a funeral thus far. During my trips back to my hometown, I am refreshed by my time with friends and family that I do not get to see otherwise. That said, my time home in August was not very restful. Pennsylvania was in the middle of a heat wave and this was my first summer home since 2014. I was no longer accustomed to the high humidity and constant heat, even at night. It was a difficult trip physically with much time hiding in the A.C. However, my trip in October was a different story.
I had planned on being home for a minimum of one week this October. This gave me enough time to sort through my remaining personal items, pack the van, and plan our drive to Alaska in hopes to miss any snow in Yukon, Canada. As I went down memory lane sorting through what was left in my old room, I was filled with many different emotions. Some of these emotions were good, but surprisingly, most of them were bad. God used this intense time of “cleaning house” to clean some heart issues within me. One pile, in particular, was a huge part of this process. I had a “to do pile” of things that I had been putting off for years. I never felt right about letting it go for so long. One by one I did each thing on that pile. In addition to this pile, I had other things to go through as well. I ended up with 2 full sized trash bags: one for the garbage man, the other for Hope Rescue’s Hope Outlet. I plan to do a final check this summer before the remaining items are brought all the way to Alaska. What still remains you may ask? The bigger or heavier items that are not practical to bring back on the plane. Items like the tools I have collected over the years, books from college, and sleds 😉
So what does this have to do with my title Unfathomable? It’s regarding one of those big-ticket items on that to-do list I let go for so long. I’m talking years, ten years… Almost everything in that pile dated back to my time at Elim Bible Institute. The one that inspired this title was regarding a close friend, DBo. This is his new nickname, and for those that do not know him, I wish to protect his identity as much as possible. In high school, I had a close group of guy friends, half I had known since middle school, the other half I met in high school. This group did many things together.
We fixed up my parent’s basement for a “man cave” if you will. Once it was complete, we gamed out, played Risk, and even had our Jah Rock Bible studies on Thursday nights. Anyone that’s been through high school knows that season of life can be very tough. As I have grown and matured through life I have valued this group of friends and the times we spent together more than they may realize. I have come to the conclusion that it is due to this strong connection that I was able to get through so many hardships. Since then, I have gone through seasons of life without a group of close friends.
To this day, I have remained connected to all of these men. But I left one of them behind… You see, one of them, DBo, ended up in jail. While I was attending Elim, I was informed of the news as it hit our local newspaper. With the evidence against him, he decided to take a plea bargain. Even with that deal, he was facing 14 years. It has been 10 years since he was sentenced. Do you want to know when I stopped writing him? I am ashamed to admit, but it was nearly 10 years ago. Back then, I wrote my first letter and got my first response. I was so excited to hear from my friend and to be able to keep in touch despite this tragic moment in his life. He was transferred, and once a prisoner is transferred, they do not forward their mail. To avoid losing the correspondence, I waited until I got his new address. Yet once I got it, I kept putting it off… I held on to that first letter, always intending to get his updated address, and always intending to write him back. Yet I never did. When I saw that letter sitting on my to-do pile I made it my priority to write him back. I knew this whole “cleaning house” process was God as I ran into his sister and step-dad that very weekend after re-finding his letter.
When I sat down to write him once more, I wasn’t sure where to start. Feeling convicted for leaving a friend behind, I picked up a pen and sent a card expressing my apology and how my lack of writing did not mean I had forgotten him. I thought of him often. I wrote the second letter before leaving Pennsylvania to make sure he knew I was serious about reconnecting. Since my return address was my home in Alaska, I wouldn’t know if he replied until I got home.
When I got home I eagerly checked my mailbox. It’s amazing how much mail they can fit in those little boxes. I ended up being away for 3 weeks. In that pile of mail was Dbo’s response. I opened it wondering what it would say. Remember, it has been 10 years since we last wrote to each other. As I read his response I was overwhelmed with humility. You may be thinking, “Wow, he forgave you.” He didn’t, because he took it a step further. He said, “There is nothing to forgive you for.” He said this at the beginning of his letter and a second time in the end. I was flabbergasted. This man had every right to feel abandoned by one of his closest friends and yet he freely forgave me saying, “You don’t owe me anything… Life happens.” Wow, I have much to learn from this man. I wrote back that day. He is only able to receive letters/cards and pictures. With this in mind, I started a ‘series’ of postcards so he can see what Alaska is like. I now check my P.O. Box with an anticipation to read his next correspondence.
Whenever I have felt isolated, receiving mail, especially handwritten mail has always breathed life into me. So what I find unfathomable is that he let 10 years go like an afterthought, and restarted our friendship as if we only had a disagreement yesterday. What fresh lesson on undeserving grace lesson for me to experience.
Matthew 25:45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (NIV)
If you have someone like me that you could write to in jail, don’t let 10 years go by. To widen the horizon a bit, don’t let months go by before you call your mom or dad back, cherish your time with your grandparents, and make time for friends and family.
Author: A.P. Smither
Guest Editor: @cgkers (editor of 2 blogs and will be soon helping me redesign my blog)
*Disclaimer: views and opinions expressed by A.P. Smither do not necessarily reflect the views of his editors, current employers or ministry affiliates: Light Shine Ministries and Hope of the Nations Christian Center
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