An Open Letter to General David Howell Patraeus
Dear General Patraeus:
I do not have your email address or I would send this to you directly. Below is a letter I wrote to President Clinton in 1998. I didn’t have his email either, but a version of this appeared in the Lansing State Journal (9/22/1998). If you just substitute your name for President Clinton’s, you will get the point.
I sincerely pray that the Lord will give you grace and peace in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Chris Brauns
September 11, 1998
President William J. Clinton
The White House
Dear President Clinton:
There are things I would like to say to you as an American, but you are hearing plenty of “American thoughts” these days so I’ll hold off. Besides, I am a pastor. . .
President Clinton, I don’t know if you watch MSNBC, but it fascinates me to hear the media dissect your mistakes. Your self destruction mystifies the “experts.” All kinds of psychologists are being interviewed about your choices. Our country understands when an average citizen blows it. But, they can’t believe you would risk everything.
President Clinton, if we think about this in a Biblical way it’s not hard to understand where things went south. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not smarter than the experts. It’s just that they are using all their intellect to look in the wrong places. The reality is that the Bible is the source of God’s wisdom and it is there we find direction.
So, here’s a Biblically informed explanation of what I think is going on. All your life you have been driven by a desire to accomplish and succeed; to be known and to influence others. You are a driven man. You were “first in your class.”
A lot of us know just how you feel because we started out the same way. We were like the little boy you recently met who said he wanted to be President. But, you are the one in a million, no, the one in 250 million who was able to accomplish your dreams. We stopped thinking about being president somewhere in high school and dreamed of being governor. We quit imagining billions and dreamt of millions. Our fantasies went through a pruning process. Yours kept growing and suddenly you found on a November evening that you had accomplished all your goals. Others could only dream of satisfaction. You were poised on the brink of it. Or, so you thought.
And, then sometime after you arrived in the White House you found that it didn’t satisfy. Now, I don’t know if you would have said it that way. But, you have to admit that once you got there, your successful conquests only made you want to take more ground. So, as you have in the past, you pursued satisfaction in sordid and secret ways. In the end, pursuing fulfillment in the Presidency is like plowing the sea or chasing the wind: futile. Political accomplishments aren’t inherently bad. But, they don’t satisfy.
Now, here’s where many miss it. They think you wanted too much. A man not content with being President disgusts them. But, the problem isn’t that you dreamed too big; you dreamed too small. You thought that trivial matters such as being the most powerful man in the world and having your name written in every history book would quench your thirst. But, what you need to know, President Clinton, is that you are a human being created in the image of God himself. And, as an image bearer you are far too incredible to be satisfied by such details. Think bigger.
If you are still reading at this point you are probably rolling your eyes. Hear me out. What I want to say is that your desires weren’t wrong. Your desires for incredible fame and accomplishment are a gift from God. So is your sexuality. The problem was that you tried to satisfy grand desires with little things like being President. When that didn’t work, you kept frantically looking.
As human beings, the Bible teaches that we are created with a desire to be famous: a desire to be known in important ways by important beings. The Bible teaches that through the person and work of Christ it is possible to be famous, not before humans, but before the God of the universe. Scripture acknowledges that Christians may struggle some in this life, but promises that in the eternal long run we are going to gain an unbelievable amount of fame. Actually, the Bible calls it “glory.” But, the point is Christians are going to get a lot of fame and power, far more than what is won by the small matter of being President.
For you there is great news. God has loved you enough to put you in a crisis where you might finally conclude there is something wrong with the quest of your life. My prayer for you, President Clinton, is that you will realize that your little dreams will never satisfy and consider the wonder of being famous not in history books but before God, of having at your disposal not a red phone and the power of nuclear weapons but the strength of the One who spoke creation into existence, of dining not in the White House but it in the heavenly city. President Clinton by faith in Him you can reign with Christ in the never ending adventure where you are increasingly satisfied for all of eternity: where every chapter is better than the one before.
Praying you will truly be famous,
Pastor Christopher D. Brauns
2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.