Anne and I were going through an old box when we ran across some early emails…I mean really early…like 1955 early! Some of us remember those early electronic messages. Back then they were called telegrams and they were the model of cutting-edge communication because they came at the speed of light and were delivered to your location.
Holding these documents made me feel connected to my family’s history as I read words of congratulation to Anne’s parents (for their wedding) or words of love as her father (working in Guatemala) sent Valentine’s Day greetings to her mother (living in Oregon). Though yellowed with age, these small sheets of paper retain a youthful force that minimizes the distance time has created between us and those moments.
There is something special and lasting about a message left on a piece of paper, especially when that message was written to you for a purpose. I don’t know about you, but over the course of one week, I manage a lot of emails and text messages. The current pandemic only emphasizes a cultural trend that has developed over the last 20 years. It seems like the modern human spends more time tapping, typing and texting than they do in face-to-face or even phone conversation! While some of those messages are simple facts about where we will meet or what we will do, other messages carry amazing insight into a person’s heart or eternal wisdom for life in Christ. Just imagine how many helpful, inspired, and blessed words are recorded on a sheet of digital paper just waiting to be savored in a second, third or tenth reading?
The problem is those digital pages don’t yellow with time; they tend do just disappear. Many of the important emails will never be read again. Buried in the pile of “junk” or made inaccessible by failing to keep up with relentless updates, these timeless messages have a shelf-life and are soon lost.
I’ve often pondered what the Apostle Paul or Augustine or Luther would have done if they had had word processing and electronic communication. Can you just imagine the volume of work they could have produced! At the same time, I wonder how much of it would have been lost and, even more easily, how much of it could have been changed or corrupted.
“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters” (2 Thessalonians 3:17). “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand” (Galatians 6:11)! As I hold the pages of the New Testament Epistles, I can’t help but feel that somehow, even though distanced by millennia and cultures, these letters retain their youthful force and connect me to a family I have yet to meet.
I write a lot of emails and send a lot of texts throughout the week. Maybe it is time to pick up a pen and send a message in my own hand. You never know what future generation might pull a yellowed page from a box and read those same words.
What about you? Is there someone in your life who might be blessed by reading the large letters you personally put on a page for them? It is true. In some cases, the pen really is mightier than the processor.
Walking with you,