on life-giving letters

9 03 2013

I just found a quote from Henri Nouwen Latin American Journal that I typed up when I read it, but never actually posted here.  On January 9th, 1982 (p. 105), he wrote,

Letters are gifts, often greater than the writers realize.  Ever since I left the United States, I have experienced a deep hunger for lifegiving letters–letters from very close friends who have little to ask and little to inform me of, but who simply speak about bonds of friendship, love, care, and prayer.  I am overwhelmed by a letter that says: “We think of you, pray for you, and we want you to know that we love you.”  I have never experienced the power of such letters as strongly as during these last months.  They directly affect my spiritual, emotional, and even physical life. They influence my prayers, my inner feelings, and even my breathing and heartbeat.

“The Word was made flesh, he lived among us” (John 1:14).  These words by St. John received new life for me during my last months here.  A word of love sent to me by a friend can indeed become flesh and bridge long distances of time and space.  Such a word can heal pains, bind wounds, and often give new life.  Such a word can even restore a faltering faith and make me aware that in the community of love, the incarnation of the divine love can be realized wherever we are.

The letters I’ve received here have been a huge encouragement, perhaps even more so than the emails.  Is that because the physicality of ink on paper echos Jesus’ incarnation more directly than pixels on a screen?  When I’ve taken time to send handwritten thank you notes or letters, I come away from that hour or two deeply grateful for the people who’ve partnered with me in prayer, in giving, in friendship.  Or to use Pauline terms, writing brings people to mind, and when I remember them I give thanks for their partnership with my in the gospel of Christ.  How appropriate it is, then, to encourage one another with the incarnation of our words on paper.


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