August 24, 2010
Letter of Love
"And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, Abba, Father." Galatians 4:6 (NLT)
I have only scraps now. Words penned on paper when I was a teen. I was a new Christian, trying to live my faith in a house of chaos. My mom was broken. My dad hid behind a newspaper, calling out words like "you belong in a loony bin" to my mother, spiraling her deeper into the abyss of rage and hopelessness.
I lived in parallel worlds. One, my very fractured home. And the second, a world of faith where people loved Jesus, and their lives reflected that love. Church was more than a building to me. It was a sanctuary, a shelter, from the roller coaster existence at home. I spent hours in the altar, weeping -- not out of grief, or self-pity -- but because I had discovered the most amazing truth: God is.
Two years after my encounter with Christ, I found a letter on my pillow.
Dear Suzie, I've watched you and I know what you have is real. It's a treasure, and I hope you hang on to it. . .
I sat on the edge of the bed and read through the rest of the letter, amazed. It was penned by my dad. A man who did not know how to express his feelings very well. A man who had faced his own demons growing up, and who believed that love was putting food on the table and going to work every morning at 7 a.m.
I look back now through the mirror of time and I see two adults, younger than I am now, who struggled. My mom with pain. My dad with the inability to know how to help. But that letter was a ray of light. I keep the tattered pieces because it came at a time that I needed it. I was praying often for my family, but came home to the same old mess day after day. I often thought about running away from home, but I ran after Jesus instead, all the while longing for my parents to discover what I had found.
My father never said a word about the letter left on my pillow. But he was baptized the next year. He and my mother started attending church. It was a long, hard road, but over time my mother was healed emotionally. Her smile came back, and it was beautiful.
In the 30 years that have passed, I've been reading another letter from a father -- my Heavenly Father.
The Bible has become an ongoing communication between me and Jesus. I don't know how many times I've sat with the Bible in my hands, and felt an encouraging word or a corrective nudge. A command to overcome, or a promise that I'd never have to do it alone. It's not specifically written to me, but the Holy Spirit marks it with my name as He reveals truth.
Just when I need it. Just when I've been praying for direction. Just when I've felt that my faith was running on empty.
Can I be honest? There are times I have allowed that precious Letter to sit idle. I've pushed it to the side, glancing at it as I passed, knowing I'd "get to it" later. And yet one day I realized the Bible is just as precious and affirming as those tattered pieces from my earthly father. In fact, the words are very much the same. I find in Scripture that Jesus knows what I've been feeling, but He reminds me that He sees me. He affirms that I have discovered real treasure, and encourages me to hang on to it, even in the hard times. Especially in the hard times.
Maybe it's been a long time since you picked up your Letter of Love. I pray that today that you'll pick it back up, hold it in your hands, and read it for the first time all over again.
Dear Father, You know my pressures. You know my shortcomings. Thank You that You know what I need. Restore the joy of my salvation today. Restore my hunger to communicate with You. Thank You for Your letter of love to me. I ask that Your Holy Spirit take Your word and mark my life with it. In Your Loving Name, Amen.
Women's Devotional Bible (NIV)
Making It Real: Whose Faith is it Anyway? by T. Suzanne Eller
The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future, by T. Suzanne Eller
Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst
It's not about checking off "read your Bible" on your list for the day. It's taking time to communicate with Jesus.
1. Make an appointment, as you would with a friend.
2. Don't worry about a set number of verses or chapters. It's better to study three verses and grow through them, than to read five chapters just because it's on your to-do chart.
3. Read with a pen in hand. Mark verses that speak to you.
4. Keep a journal next to you. Share your thoughts and questions as you read. (It's also great to write down those pesky thoughts like "pay the water bill." Write it down and it's out of your thoughts, so you can go back to hanging out with Jesus.)
"The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs to me; it has hands, it lays hold of me." ~ Martin Luther
Revelation 1:8, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega--the beginning and the end,'" says the Lord God. "'I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come--the Almighty One.'" (NLT)
Revelation 3:20, "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." (NLT)
© 2010 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Tuesday, 24 August 2010.