Recently, I've thought a lot about the significance of written communication: its weight, significance, clear intention. Other communication is so cheap to come by- and it is cheapened even more by the advent of texts and Facebook messages and one sentence emails, blown without second thoughts into electronic oblivion after being hastily consumed.
I was thinking about it because I had gotten a card from a friend whose address I do not have. I was about to text my confirmation of receipt along with thanks, when I realized the mismatch in effort was a little embarrassing. I give a digital blip of gratitude in return for a card stock investment?
It made me think of when you are around 6 or 7 and suddenly realize you are supposed to get Christmas presents for other people, too, like your parents, and you make them a home-made card or buy them a chocolate bar. Then they give you something really nice and you get shamed just a little bit at the how unbalanced that is and how inadequate your present is.
I guess there's a lot of reasons why actual written things have an inherent gravity about them... but it is true; important things are written down, declaring their permanence with an understated defiance.
Anyway, it's my seventh spiritual birthday today, and I remember back then when I became a Christian. I desired love, and God's love letter in the Bible spoke of it for us. So I followed Christ with a solemn mixture of gratitude and shame. Gratitude that God would love me so, and shame that any thanks or works that I could do or give would be inadequate.
I fear sometimes that's what my life is like. I try to treat people like it means something, like I can give more than a secondhand present or a touch-typed email. I give God a crayon-scrawled card, a text message, a quickly uttered prayer. But then love makes itself apparent, and though in spiritual infancy I am first shamed into greatness, my faith begins to understand the nature of grace and carries me through the dark.
But it brings me back to the origin of the name, and it convinces me that I do have paper to write back everything with all gravity, permanence, and significance:
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.