For they say, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." Let such people understand that what we say by letter when absent, we will also do when present. - 2 Corinthians 10:10-11
Back in the dark ages – I'm talking about the late 1990's now – my husband-to-be and I were courting long distance. We emailed, painfully slowly on the dialup connection. We made mixes of songs we liked and copied them onto CDs. And we wrote letters. His epistles arrived in my mailbox full of doodles, stories describing the new city he was in, heartfelt confessions. We could not afford many visits in those early days, but when we did see each other, it was like those letters came alive. In person, he was exactly like his letters, only more so.
Like the apostle Paul, what he said when absent, he did when present.
Those were, as I mentioned, the dark ages. Long before we could type and send our thoughts faster, almost, than we could think them. Long before our social media accounts told us who our friends were. Long before everyone hid behind the privacy of anonymity. Long before no one had to be accountable to those they communicated with, because there was no possibility of having to be in person what they are on the screen.
It's different now. Unlike the apostle Paul, we say when absent what we never would when present.
But we don't have to be like this. I know, because I have experienced it. The generous unfolding of one soul to another, piece by authentic piece. The vulnerability that is willing to show us the same face no matter how far apart we may seem. The same person revealed, whether in written word or face to face conversation.
Christ Jesus – No matter our distance from one another, make us say and do what you would have us say and do. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.