The letter

As I’ve admitted in previous posts, I’m a keeper, especially when it comes to things with sentimental value, mementos associated with the numerous trips I’ve taken throughout my life and items that might be useful at some point in the future. After nearly six decades, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff that fits into one or more of those categories. Hence I’ve decided to start cleaning out bit by bit, box by box so my dear daughters won’t have quite so much to wade through later.

Since making this decision several weeks ago, I’ve managed to sort through approximately half a carton of keepsakes from the years I spent in Argentina. Pitifully slow-going to be sure as day-to-day demands are more pressing than dealing with boxes in the attic and basement.

img_2777Upon opening the aforementioned carton, I spied the beautiful scrapbook given to me by my 6th grade Spanish teachers, Señor Alvarez and Señora de López. It’s full of postcards and photos accompanied by my notations of dates and places. But, placed inside the front cover, I found a long-hidden treasure. It was the letter Señor Alvarez wrote to go along with the gift. Reading his kind words of affirmation and good wishes for future success affected me far more than flipping through the pages of the scrapbook itself. His words were the real gift, one that touched a 13-year old girl as well as the woman she became.

I have other similar gems tucked in boxes and drawers and files. Meaningful, heart-felt notes from family and friends, received on various special occasions or for no reason other than to reach out. Birthday cards, expressions of sympathy, thank you notes. From childish scribble to elegant cursive. Each in its own way says, “You matter to me.”

Written or spoken, our words can have lasting significance for good or for harm. Scripture instructs us to encourage one another and to refrain from unwholesome speech.[1] Proverbs 12:18 states, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”, while Proverbs 16:24 declares, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”[2] James tells us man’s anger is contrary to the righteousness God desires[3] then goes on to explain in great detail how difficult it is to tame the tongue and how much damage it can cause.[4]

Furthermore, we don’t know when we’ll no longer have the opportunity to tell someone what they mean to us or to apologize for an angry word spoken in haste. After I read the letter eloquently penned in Spanish so many years ago, I longed to tell Señor Alvarez how much his words meant to me and how my life has turned out since he wrote them. But time and distance make that impossible.

Sometimes death is the cause of separation. On occasion it comes quickly and without warning. I need no reminder of this, having unexpectedly lost my husband to a heart attack shortly after his 39th birthday. Nonetheless, every so often the reminders come. Such was the case last week as I attended the funeral for a dear woman I worked with years ago. Her brother, a pastor, conducted the service. He eulogized his sister and shared fond memories, including how she ended their last conversation in her customary way, “I love you Brother.” Marcie was my age and her sudden passing has given me reason to reflect, once again, on the brevity of life; to remember we don’t always know when last goodbyes are being said.

Believers look to the Bible as our only rule for faith and practice, recognizing the sufficiency of Scripture[5] as well as its supremacy.[6] Yet the all-powerful Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.[7] Jesus’ coming was promised immediately after the fall[8] and foretold throughout the Old Testament.[9] The Gospels proclaim his birth and detail his earthly ministry. Revelation gives us a glimpse of eternity in the presence of God.[10] And so for me the Bible is a love letter from beginning to end. A divinely-inspired account, full of promises kept and assurances of promises yet to be fulfilled by an Almighty Father who will never forsake his children in this life or the life to come.

As we await Jesus’ return or our own summons Home, may our words be helpful and healing rather than reckless and angry, beneficial to those who listen[11] and expressed in a timely manner[12] for we do not know the final day or hour.[13]

 

[1] See Hebrews 3:13 and Ephesians 4:29 respectively.

[2] Both Proverbs verses are quoted from the NIV translation.

[3] James 1:19-20

[4] James 3:1-12

[5] 2 Timothy 3:16-17

[6] Hebrews 4:12

[7] John 1:14

[8] Genesis 3:15

[9] See for example Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 9:9

[10] Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5

[11] Ephesians 4:29

[12] Hebrews 10:24-25

[13] Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:32

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