Letter #1 – Life outside the cage
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 18, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 18, 2001
Well, I guess it’s here. Happy birthday. I hope your 20s are your greatest decade yet (but not the greatest ever…haha).
These letters have been fun. It was a great way for me to distill everything I’ve learned in my 20s and pass them along to you. I hope you’ve enjoyed them.
Have thought a lot about this last letter. These will be my final words to you as you embark on this new decade and I embark on mine.
You had a favorite Bible verse in high school, Brett. You quietly made it your personal manifesto for your high school years:
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” – Prov 29:25
I’m glad you latched on to that verse, especially during those years when others’ opinions are everything. It reminds us of the danger there. Fearing people–their thoughts, opinions, and notions of us– is a snare, a trap. Imagine a rabbit in a small wire cage–that’s what we do to ourselves when we live in fear of man. As fragile, insecure, broken creatures, we’re prone to caring way too much for the approval of those around us. It’s an addiction, and the more approval we get, the more we need.
And this is problematic…
Because if you drive an SUV, they’ll think you don’t care about the environment. And if you have a southern accent, they’ll think you’re an Alabama redneck. And if you haven’t read all the classics, they’ll think you’re uneducated. And if you talk too spiritual, the pagans will think you’re a fundamentalist. But if you don’t talk spiritual enough, the fundamentalists will think you’re a pagan. If you use use the word “sovereign” and quote John Piper a lot, you’ll make the Calvinists happy. But don’t talk like that too much, lest the v-necked church planters and charismatics label you a geeky presbyter. Oh, and make sure you speak out against abortion, democrats, and homosexuality to keep the entire evangelical world happy as well. But don’t do that too much or the secularists will tag you as a bigot and hatemonger. And if you dress too nice, some will say you’re materialistic or that you have bad taste. If you don’t dress nice enough, you can’t be a part of their club. If you put gel in your hair and wear Converses, your Alabama friends will think you’re an Atlanta sellout. If you wear polos and Sperrys, your Atlanta friends will think you’re an Alabama bumpkin. Don’t even get me started on what they’ll think when they find out you were in a fraternity.
Feel that cage? See the wires?
There’s a way out: Stop caring.
Let it all go. Be free. Declare approval bankruptcy. Then begin living life.
I’m not fully there yet, Brett, but I’m getting closer. I can feel the freedom of care-less-ness a little more with each passing day. And rarely–very rarely–I’ll bump into someone who is living in this freedom. They’re like aliens. It’s so rare and refreshing, it’s like they’re not from this planet.
I think these people get that, on that day, we’ll all stand before our Maker…alone.
“They” won’t be there. Just you and God. Think about that…it changes everything.
Love others hard. Do great work. Live in community. Humble yourself daily. Seek feedback and accountability, but only fear One.
Then forget everything else.
That’s life outside the cage, Brett.
P.S. Enjoy that 32 waist, bucko!
Brett, live your life for others, requiring only the approval of One.