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  • Toni Wilbarger

The Legacy of Letters


I came home last week to find my husband, Dave, composing a handwritten note to a friend of his, encouraging him during his struggles with a new job. I love that my husband started doing this. (I asked him to write one for me, but that hasn't happened yet, lol.)


He's written others, but God used this particular note in a special way. Last night, Dave received a text from his friend thanking him and explaining that the note had arrived at just the right time since he had been really down on the day he received it. It started me thinking why Dave decided to write the note when he did. Why did he finish it when he did? He could have started it one day and finished a few days later. And what if he had waited awhile before putting it in the mailbox? The note would not have been in his friend's hands on the exact day he needed it. That's God for you-- making your work for Him into an "on time" blessing for others.


But what if a written note of encouragement isn't just about timing? What if it's also about whether you choose to write it at all? I've saved letters and printed out emails from others because they meant so much to me. I keep one of my friend's notes in my desk, and I pull it out often to read her message because I know she poured her heart into it. And now that my friend has left for heaven, her words are even more precious to me.


Our words outlive us. We may forget what someone said but, when they're written down, we will always have their words. In a sense, the notes we send to others are a way we can live on in their memories. Yet how many times have we missed opportunities to let others know-- in concrete, tangible paper and pen-- just how much we care for them? Oh, I know emails can be equally thoughtful, but there's something about seeing our friend's handwriting that speaks to us. Our handwriting may not be the neatest, but it is a piece of ourselves that can become a gift for others. If you've ever kept a handwritten letter or card, run your fingers over the writing and imagine your friend with their hands directing a pen over the exact same space. Their hands were where yours are now. It's not just the meaning that connects us; the physical result of ink-to-paper does too.


During the Covid crisis this past year, it became more important than ever that we let our friends and family know we were thinking of them and that they were not alone. Let's face it-- a "Hang in there" comment on their social media page wasn't going to cut it. And don't get me wrong, because phone calls and video chats are great. But we can forget the specifics of what was said or seen. The written word STAYS with us. We can read it over and over, as many times as we like.


And let's not ignore the biggest, most important thing about the written word: God's big letter to all of us. Would the books and chapters of the Bible have "stuck" with us if they had only been spoken? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Our brains have a tendency to forget things, especially as we age. But God used His people to write His word. Because of their efforts and God's Spirit, we can pull out His words of encouragement to us and read them again and again.


Most of us probably aren't great evangelists like Billy Graham. And we probably don't invent and manage large organizations that minister to others (although we may volunteer there). But God can use our simple, handwritten words as a blessing to others. I'm sure my friend never imagined I would be reading her note or that her words would continue to bring me comfort these many years later. But her efforts in penning that letter are just another beautiful example of how God can use our smallest offerings in the biggest ways.


So if you haven't picked up an actual pen in awhile, let me suggest you give it a try. You never know how God can use your words to strengthen and support someone during these strange and difficult days.


"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT).


Until next time,


Toni







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