Perhaps the most encouraging letter I’ve ever received…..

by Rod Smith


I was thinking of you today at lunch. I happened to have snagged a C.S. Lewis book on my way out the door to catch the train to work, and I was reading it at my favorite Indian place. I’d snatched the book just for train-reading, but I’ve noticed with Lewis that after you’ve put him on the shelf for awhile, when you pick him back up he blows your mind all over again. And, I suppose, somehow, you and C.S. Lewis and Anthony Hopkins are all jumbled up and associated with each other in the movie-theater in my head.

The trinity of associations probably grows out of the fact that Anthony Hopkins played C.S. Lewis in ‘The Shadowlands.’ And then you sort of look like Anthony Hopkins, or at least I’ve always thought so. There is, too, the British accent and cadence that thrums in my head when I read the words on the page. But then there is also a deeper connection between you and C.S. Lewis, insofar as you both have played similar, particular and transformative roles. C.S. Lewis having done so passively and abstractly, and you having played a more active, concrete, and engaged role. At any rate, when I came back to the office, I looked you up. I read some things you’ve written recently. I looked at pictures of you and your boys. The boys are quite handsome these days, and they appear happy in the photographs, which made me happy in turn.

The letter I’m always meaning to write you, Rod, has grown and grown in my mind as time has passed, until by now it’s an epistle of such out-sized proportions I don’t think I could ever commit it to paper, or put the majority of it into words in any sequence that would make sense, even if I was just talking to myself.

So instead, I thought, I’ll just write Rod a little note. To tell you that I think of you often, and that things that you once said to me–some of these ideas and principles that you tried to explain to me so long ago– have continued to save me in times of trouble, loosen my anxiety in tight spots, strengthen me when strength has been needed. So, I guess: thank you. A thousand times. The way I’ve lived my life Rod, if you could speed it up it up and stream it together into a single image, has been like a man pulling the trigger to blow his brains out and instead of dying his life is saved.

And, indeed, you did get through to me, Rod. Though it took awhile.

A decade and change, if I’m doing my accounting correctly. By which time, of course, we’d fallen out of touch.

Also, I’ve had occasion to think of you some of these late nights at the office. Recently, it’s become a kind of professional necessity for me to immerse myself in and commit to memory the recent history of Africa. And that gets me thinking about you, too. Both you and your boys.

I just wanted to touch base and let you know that I’m thinking about you, old man. That I love you, that in the body of Christ you are close to me always, feeding me, reanimating me, and reminding me to get my shit together. I love you, Rod.

5 Comments to “Perhaps the most encouraging letter I’ve ever received…..”

  1. Rod, I suspect this person speaks for many many more – more than you’d imagine. This letter articulates so well the gratitude people feel, and the impact on their (our) lives.

  2. Funny that I just mentioned CS Lewis to you yesterday…..must be something in the air cuz you know it is not coincidence in my mind. Rod, if you’re thought of in the same context as CS Lewis and Anthony Hopkins, you’re certainly in good company. But I knew that already:) Have a great week and may you thaw without freezing (was in the hi 40s here and the kids were out in Tshirts). Gail

  3. Rod, the many have passed your wise lessons of life on to others. Others who perhaps have never heard your name, yet you have also had a hand in helping them to see truth, and to be changed by it. Your teaching has changed my life and I have used your teaching many times while counseling others. I have tried to always give you the credit, yet suspect that most of those I have worked with quickly forgot your name. Yet the wisdom found in your teaching has brought hope and life to these dear ones. You have impacted and helped to bring about change to countless people, as Jenny wrote — more than you’d imagine.

    Thank you for challenging me, encouraging me and showing me the way. The way to live, the way love others, and the way to love God!

    Abundant GRACE to you, Dear Brother!

  4. I hadn’t realized, but you DO look like Anthony Hopkins. I agree with the letter, you are selflessly there for so many people, and those that post or write are probably a minority – there are many more out there that you’ve helped without knowing it.

    Thank you.

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