Ever experienced “mail call”? Although I never experienced it myself, mail call, as I understand it from those who did, was one of the most treasured times of the day for servicemen stationed away from home overseas, especially in battle or war zones.
Those letters and “care” packages from loved ones back home were, and still are, some of the most treasured.
And when our kids were little and still living in our home, one of the most looked-forward-to moments in the day was the moment the mail carrier made his daily deposit in the box outside our door.
That moment was also duly recognized by the dogs that lived there — in fact, it was EMPHASIZED by them, with a wide array of exclamation points! And, during the summer at least, when the carrier appeared at the door to deposit the contents into that little box, our children all ran to the door to “see if there is anything for me!” They then gave all the bills and the junk mail as well — you know, all the “leftover stuff” — to yours truly for the proper disposal.
One day I was sitting in my car in front of the post office, doing what I tend to do a lot of — watching people! Oh, the reason I was there was to wait for my bride as she ran inside to mail a package or two.
As I was sitting there, a mother and her son had just come out of the building, and they were celebrating receiving a large envelope. To watch that little boy was a lesson in joy. His mother had the package when they first emerged from the post office, and the little boy was jumping up and down in anticipation, begging his mother to let him open the package.
Then, standing there on the sidewalk in front of the post office, she gave the package to him. He carefully opened the envelope and peeked inside. His smile of joy and anticipation then quickly turned to a frown of disappointment and realization!
He just realized that whatever was inside that package wasn’t exactly what he had expected. So he just as quickly handed the envelope back to his mother, put his head down, and walked quietly to their car.
You know, when we look into the envelope of our lives, a lot of the time our reaction is just like that little boy, isn’t it?
Oh, we are all excited as we think about and anticipate what is to come — that new job, the end of school, the coming summer vacations, the excitement of new friends and new relationships, maybe for some, even the anticipation of marriage, or the coming of children.
But then we open the envelope and find inside it there a good dose of reality. We often discover as we peer at the contents that our life is not what we expect or wish it to be.
We find there people and events in life, pains and disappointments, that not only try to dampen our spirits, our outlook, and, if we allow them to do so, our uplook.
We may even turn our accusing finger to the God of the Bible and say, like the disciples in the boat in the middle of the storm, “Teacher, don’t You care…?” (See Mark 4:35-41)
You know, in the mailbox of life, God has sent you two letters with your very name emblazoned on the front of them. One of them is a normal everyday letter sent right to you — the Bible, containing the Good News of God addressed to you! (Read 1 John 3:16).
But the other letter is the love letter that is personally delivered by Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, that letter IS Jesus Christ Himself!
And etched into the address label of that letter is not only your personal name and address is also the phrase: “Special Delivery – wrapped up in love!”
Every day of our lives we get “junk mail.” You know what I mean — the sort of mail that seems to have no intrinsic value at all – the kind of mail that is addressed to people who owned your home three owners back, and then has the catch-all “OR CURRENT RESIDENT” attached. And we are often tempted to simply throw the whole stack away.
That issue is even more emphasized in today’s digital atmosphere. With the onslaught of email, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the amount of “mail” we get is monstrous.
Quite frankly, the digital mailbox may even be more important than the physical one. But it can fill up very quickly, and not always with contents that are edifying and helpful.
If you are at all like I am, you are tempted every so often to simply delete the whole contents of the mailbox! But if we do that, we may throw away some very valuable stuff.
During all my years of pastoral ministry, I kept a file in my desk drawer which I labeled “Encouragement File.”
And into that file, I dropped those special cards and notes which I would receive from friends, from church members, even from people who have read these columns and have received some special blessing enough to write me and thank me for the column.
When I was feeling particularly stressed out, or discouraged, I would pull out that file and just read some of the notes and reflect on the thoughts people took the time to express.
I still have that file even today. It is one of my most valued possessions, and one of my favorite pastimes is reviewing its contents.
But that file doesn’t hold a candle to the encouragement I get when I read God’s love letter to me, found in the pages of Scripture.
The end of the matter is simply: No matter what mail you and I receive in life, let’s not overlook the love letters addressed especially to us!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.