One box contained old cards and letters, among them ones from my freshman year at Purdue University (1981-82). Part of the tidying ritual is enjoying one more time items you should probably give or throw away, so I took them in the house and spent a week reading through them as I sorted.
I had forgotten how blessed I was while struggling through that first year of college! My family wrote, including grandmothers who have since passed away, my dad who isn’t a letter-writer, three cousins, my little sister, and my faithful mother who must have written weekly. Then my high school friends and teachers—what a creative, interesting, diverse, and hilarious group of people! Mark’s adventures in the Navy; Regina’s new life in Florida; Rich & Sherry in NYC; Dean alone in his apartment in Michigan; Andy, John, and Leanne still “imprisoned” in high school. I laughed and cried—and shredded the ones that neither they nor I want my kids reading when I’m gone!
As I read the greeting at the beginning of Philippians in devotional time this morning, particularly verses 3-11, I thought about how these letters kept us all connected. I also thought about all the moves I’ve made in my adult life: Illinois, the Philippines, Illinois again, New Mexico, and Indiana—and all the brothers and sisters in Christ who have witnessed to me, worshiped with me, prayed with me and for me over the years.
Paul feels like a kindred spirit these days. He loved the people he brought to Christ and spent much time teaching them. But he was called to keep moving on and reaching others with the good news. It hurt to leave the people of Philippi, but Paul kept in touch by writing letters and visiting when he could. He knew they were brothers and sisters for life, and never stopped giving thanks for them. As I contemplate the beginning of a transitional year, one that includes being open to moving on if that’s what I’m called to do, Paul’s greeting to the Philippians resonates with me on a deeper level.
It must have been special to the church in Philippi to get a letter from Paul—something we can probably relate better to today when it’s become so rare to get “real” mail! I remember being incredibly grateful to receive those letters as I stepped out into the unknown at a huge public university. I am even more grateful to all the brothers and sisters in Christ I have around the states and indeed the world. I know no matter where I go or what I am called to do, they will continue to pray for me and encourage me whether it’s in cards, email messages, or on Facebook.
I thank my God every time I remember you!