The worn valise in my bedroom closet might be mistaken for a used and obsolete piece of luggage. I found it a few years ago, resting on a garbage can. I would have run past it, except I remembered my third daughter, Brianna was into retro, so I slowed down, and decided it was worth a dumpster dive. When I went to snatch it, it felt oddly heavy, too heavy to carry while running. Curious now, I cut my run short and hurried back. I threw it in the trunk without opening, and on the way home I imagined a horde of cash! I would soon discover a far greater prize, a time capsule of sorts, and a fantastic love story.
At home I loosed the strap, and lifted the top. Inside I found letters, a lot of them. They were neatly stacked, each bundle tied together with a ribbon. But most curious of all was a single envelope thrown loosely on top. It was addressed to a Mr. James Stanley,’ but it had been returned to it’s sender, “Janet McIntosh.” When I unfolded the two delicate pieces of parchment, the near perfect free hand dripped with emotion.
“That I will love you for all of my life—and more, if it is possible—seems to be irrevocable. That I could wish to hurt you—as I might consider, academically, to stop you from hurting me—seems to be quite undesirable, if not actually impossible…
I only want to say that I await your homecoming in the fullness of love, and extreme passion—I have called Capital Air Lines and they inform me that the night coach from Birmingham leaves at 12:30 and arrives at LaGuardia at 7:05 in the morning. I will be waiting for you, there, Friday morning, unless I hear otherwise from you. A confirmation by wire from you would help my family a bit, during this strained situation. I however, will be at the airport, frightened but there, as I have waited half the night for your homecoming, because the guardian angels told me that you would come.
I remain completely your own and your future wife.”
James and Janet had conspired to meet at the airport. After seven years, they would finally be reunited. But like some love stories, something tragic happened at journey’s end. He never received the letter, and so I wondered for some time if they had ever reunited. In the weeks to follow I would untie the bundles, and sift through the letters. It felt like I was ease dropping on their budding love affair—a heartsick woman, and a man forever promising to ‘come home soon.’
Inside many of the envelopes, I found news clips, advertisements, and poems, a way to bring his heart closer to hers. He was a salesman, scratching out a hard- scrabble living selling goods to yawning housewives, tired and distant. In all the letters, emotion and sentiment gushed from the yellowed pages, sprinkled with the arcane; wending narratives of passing through a flower garden, or walking beside a canal.
The letters began in 1943, while he was still in the service, and continued after he came home. His final one, dated September 13, 1950, meant almost a month of silence for Janet. An eternity in the day when letters, hand scribbled or typed were the standard by which you spoke. Days of wondering, had turned into hand wringing fear, and embarrassment. Would James return, and live out all the promises in the letters he had sent? Janet had saved each one, meticulously placing them in her valise—a treasure of hope.
A treasure of hope. Letters sent from the heart of a suitor, to his chosen beloved. It seems the history of the world could be captured in their context. How many young hearts have waited for a return, and how many promises have been shared without enough foundation for fulfillment. Love letters tell the story of intimate longing, and a kind of belief in the other. They are treasured, because for a fleeting moment, that one reading those words has stepped into the heart of the other, and eternity has budded.
The same can be said of the thick stack of letters we cherish, called the Bible. They have been assembled between bindings, painstakingly preserved through centuries, and bundled together; letters from his heart, aimed at ours. We, the Bride of Christ, remain ‘completely His own and future wife.’
The chest full of letters that sit in my closet remind me that God took pains to scribble onto the hearts of faithful writers, his promises to me. He bundled those letters together and tied them up in a bow of inspiration, so that we could be assured that indeed, He is coming home. It’s different from other love letters, because it can not and will not end tragically toward journey’s end. What God has promised, He will fulfill. The better we know these letters, the more peace will come as we trust that what He has told us, He is the foundation for the answer.
Can you echo Janet’s sentiments, but aim them at God? “That I will love you for all of my life, and more….is irrevocable.”