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Face of the Unknown:
A Letter to My Brother

Written by Paul Landis Delaune
 

May 9, 2000

Dear Dave,

     I’ve thought long and hard for some ideas of what I could write to you for you to read on
your ‘Walk to Emmaus.’  The little bit we’ve talked about religion and our beliefs the last few
years I’ve tried to communicate to you that I don’t consider myself a Christian anymore.
That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the person of Jesus or in his work, because I do.  But
I have a different view of who he was and is and what his work was and is.

     I’ll be honest with you. When I watch a movie about Jesus or one in which he is a part,
like ‘Ben-Hur’, sometimes I feel a tightness in my throat and other times I’m moved to tears.
Whatever our differences may be in how we view and relate to the person of Jesus, he is
someone who has touched our lives and helped shape our destinies as much as mom and
dad and we have done as brothers.

     When I look back over our lives, there are things that have happened that I have asked
“Why? Why, Lord, did these things happen?” I’m talking about things like your heart
condition, my spinal cord injury and resulting paralysis, and dad’s passing on so many
years ago.  In my own case I’ve come up with some reasons why I broke my neck and
am to live most of my life with a body that is paralyzed. Some of these reasons are personal
and some you probably wouldn’t accept because our view of the world is so different.

     I have found it’s easy to get caught up in finding reasons for what we judge to be
negative experiences and tragedies in our lives. Oh, we find reasons and these reasons
may ease the pain to our hearts and minds. But in the final analysis it doesn’t matter
why things happen.  What matters is how we go on living our lives. I’ve read that ‘It’s not
important what happens to a man; what’s important is what happens within him.’ On this
‘Walk to Emmaus’, it isn’t important what happens to you—it’s important what
happens within you.

     We live in a society where almost everyone believes in science and we are privileged
to benefit from the fruits of science. But science is like a religion in that its aim is to seek
truth, just science does it without spiritual or religious trappings. However, as
Americans, we live in a society that readily accepts the teachings of science and, as
Americans, equipped with scientific knowledge, we believe we have all the answers.

    When one has all the answers, one has no more need for science or religion. You know
why we have religions? Not to gives us answers or reasons. We have religions because
they are how we human beings try to relate to the unknown, to the mystery of life. What
makes the concept of God so awesome, so majestic and holy, isn’t what we know or
what we think we know about God. What makes God so gripping is what we don’t
know. God is the unknown. God is the mystery.

    We human beings fear the unknown. We hate mysteries and are always seeking to solve
them. In essence, we fear God! So how do we relate to the unknown, to the mystery
of life? We do so by seeing God in creation, in the world around us, in the people around
us. We see God in Jesus.  Jesus experienced the mystery and did not fear it. Jesus spoke
of the mystery in terms we can understand and demonstrated the power of the unknown.

    Jesus and others like him—Christians tend to only accept Jesus—demonstrate both the awesome power and the gentle grace of the unknown, of the mystery that we call God.

    On your walk, I don’t ask you to get in touch with your Christianity. Instead, I ask
you to get in touch with the Christ within you. Jesus demonstrated the Christ, but he
didn’t do it by teaching what was known. Jesus brought something “new” from the
unknown, from the mystery. In trying to explain Jesus, we must come to terms
with the unknown, with the mystery, for faith is about facing the unknown, the mystery,
with confidence. It’s a fearful thing this faith. Jesus knew this fear well. In the face of
the unknown and in the name of the mystery he found the faith to transcend death.

    Whatever the reasons may be for your heart condition, my paralysis and dad’s untimely
death, each served to force us to experience the unknown and the mystery of our lives.
Perhaps in stepping into the unknown and plunging into the mystery, whether with
faith or out of the madness of fear, we are experiencing God in ways we never imagined
before. We are experiencing what Jesus experienced. We are following in his footsteps…

    I’m proud of you, Bro’.

With love,

Paul