Dear Perry Noble,
I need to be honest. I didn't know much about you until a few days ago which, I know, is what makes me a perfect candidate to write you an "open letter".
What I knew about you was your name and that you led a megachurch. I may have heard you on a podcast once but can't remember the content. I've never heard your sermons or even realized you were from Anderson, SC.
Even with all I didn't know about you, the crazy thing is that I do know that your name has surfaced in conversations in which I have been a part. For some reason, the name, Perry Noble, left me with a sense of awe. In my mind, you were untouchable. Why? Well quite frankly, I don't know. Maybe because you had power and influence, or people took your advice, or that you were a leader of thousands. Whatever it was the name Perry Noble was on my radar, but the person of Perry Noble wasn't.
Then on Saturday, February 4, 2017 I sat in the Elevation Ballantyne campus and listened as Pastor Steven introduced you. He spoke candidly about his friendship with you and your part in the growth of Elevation.
From his admonition, it was apparent that you had made a huge impact in the life of Pastor Steven and had really been a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
The emotions within me were mixed, like a whirlwind in my mind. The less righteous part of me was giddy because I was in the room and within twenty feet of one I must have deemed as a “superstar”.
The self righteous part of me questioned your success and wanted to discount you because I had not seen the same success and influence in my own life.
The sane (but maybe still slightly self righteous) part of me was cautioning me to remember that you were merely a man surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit.
The selfish part of me was a little disappointed that Pastor Steven wasn't preaching because let's be honest sitting under his preaching can definitely be a selfish desire. Not to mention I had already titled my electronic sermon notes with “Work Your Window Week 4” and who wants to use the backspace button must less the select and cut features. How inconvenient!
As you entered the stage, I worked to resolve all the emotions swirling in my head. I sunk back in my seat and sulked for a moment. Then I turned my attention to your words. I'll admit that what you were saying was not what I was expecting. The more you talked, the more jacked up I realized that parts of your life had been. It was great for me because I could relate. I don't just have jacked moments, I have jacked up days and years.
On the other hand I was somewhat disappointed because I was forced to see you differently than my earlier preconceived notions had insisted. To balance this new reality with my previous thoughts, I resolved that the Lord must have done a great work in your life. I told myself you could no longer identify with that part of you, but it kept you humble. You were now free to have compassion for messed up people without still being in that state.
At this point, you had my ear, but not quite my heart. As you preached through Zechariah chapter three, many things resonated with me. My heart became engaged. Then you got to point number three, transformation. You spoke from Zechariah 3:3-5 and talked about how Joshua, the high priest, was dressed in filthy clothes. Then the angel of the Lord began to transform him where he was and clothe him in fine new liens while Zechariah watched. As Joshua was being transformed, Zechariah spoke up, got involved, and encouraged the transformation he was watching. Then you issued the challenge that I wasn't ready for. You said that when we watch people transform, we can either side with accusation, which was your first point from Zechariah 3:1, or choose to be involved in the transformation.
Now I love a good redemption story and typically wildly celebrate others; however, for personal reasons, that challenge hurt! In that moment I felt accused and attacked. So I did what any convicted person would do and moved you back into the position of an untouchable self righteous know it all who must be so far from experiencing pain that he has no compassion for those hurting at the hands of the one who could be being transformed.
Your words once again began to fall on deaf ears as I took the next few moments and tried to reconcile my own pain.
Then right before closing the message, you dropped the major line that I had been ignorant too. Since I didn't "follow" you, I had no idea of the information that you were about to reveal. You went on to say, “Most of you know that back in July I lost my job for drinking too much, and I found myself in rehab.”
I wasn't part of the most who knew that information. It was shocking! Imagine the new whirlwind of emotions that began. The most prevalent was self righteousness which set the stage for a few candid thoughts that l’ll spare you. It was a counterfeit salve for my afflicted soul. The one that you had just wounded with your bold proclamation that as I see others transform, the others who have so deeply hurt me, I could choose to side with accusation or transformation. For a moment the self righteousness felt good but not really a healing good.
Then, overwhelming relief came over me. I was relieved to know that you weren't perfect because it meant that just maybe I wasn't too broken for God to use either. If you could get up and face the pain and failure, perhaps there was hope that my circumstance wasn't too far gone either.
And about the time you shouted these words … “Get back up! Get back up! Get back up!” my heart reengaged. I have always felt like a fighter. It seems that my life has been a constant cycle of getting back up, but quite frankly in that moment I was sick of getting up and wanted to wallow in my defeat ...
But even today your words will not leave my mind. It's not that I haven't heard them before. It's just that this time I had to hear them from a fellow fighter; a broken person who is actually getting back up and knows what it takes to do so; one whose example goes far beyond just words.
So maybe I'm not the perfect candidate to write you an "open letter". I am simply the broken girl who wants to publicly say thank you for getting back up in the midst of failure and discomfort and being vulnerable enough to preach that message. Thank you for not surrendering to the accusations of Satan, but instead believing that God is not done with you yet.
In my eyes, you are no longer the untouchable Perry Noble. Instead, I will forever see you as the one who challenged my stance and shepherded my soul when it was most vulnerable.
And to repeat the words of a man who has become a great inspiration in my life, here is my daily encouragement to you: “Get back up. There is still time on the clock. The game is not over. God is not done with you yet.”