Love Letters Unread

I don’t know how I found it, probably while I was snooping through my mom’s dresser, but there, in a dusty, hand carved humidor with nearly black wooden roses adorning the lid, I found a letter, addressed to me. The paper was aging, but not yet old, and I recognized my mom’s scrolling script, flowering across the page. It started, “I love you…” I tucked it back into the box. My name was at the top, so why did this feel like tampering with private mail? I’ve never received that letter; so, I think while it was to me, it wasn’t for me.

I now know some of the explanations she probably had included in the letter, the marriage to my dad, her choices for me and what she wanted me to remember about who she thought I was. There were some family secrets hidden within, from her point of view. I don’t even think I’ve ever talked to her about it, because I’m not sure she’d remember. It was meant to be cathartic, not necessarily informative. I know in my heart that’s the case, even if I don’t know it from her, and that’s because I’ve written love letters like that to my daughters, too.

Love letters are waning in our culture. We text our feelings to one another, just a few bits between romantic partners or friends, missing vowels and deleted to make room for more. It hasn’t been sooooo long since I was a teenager, passing love notes in class and church. In fact, I remember very clearly the meanest thing I’ve ever done was to a high school boyfriend, with whom I had exchanged about 100 love letters. This box looked different, less like a secret treasure chest than the humidor, more like a teen’s art stash – a shoebox covered in metallic wrapping paper, sprinkled with puffy heart stickers and ribbons of glitter. I had tenderly interred each note and would read and re-read them when time permitted or the fancy struck.

When we broke up, I felt hurt and angry and sad and pessimistic about love. In the heat of a girlfriend scorned moment (okay, probably dramatized it a bit under the influence of adolescent hormones), I took out those love notes and prepared for my life as a teacher by hand-correcting each one in red pen. It looked as if I had opened up a vein and bled all over them. I felt cruelly justified in destroying the love letters, because love, I reasoned, was just a crock. I didn’t read those letters again, for shame of what I’d done, for fear of opening up feelings I would rather forget. I tried to unread what I had once read.

Those two attitudes, the one I had that kept me from reading my mom’s letter, and the one that essentially brought me to destroy the ex-boyfriend’s letters, are the same that keep me from reading the Bible in the way it was intended, as a love letter from God to his people. I read the prefaces of all those epistles, addressed to churches long extinct, and feel like the letter isn’t for me. I sometimes read Scripture like an eavesdropper. I imagine that must be how a non-believer would read it, as a legalistic list of  “don’ts” and “thou shalt nots” and not as a love letter at all. I have poured over love letters in order to gain some understanding of the author, and that’s how I think now about those books of the Bible I’ve previously skipped – the ones full of rules and laws. What do those rules and laws reveal about the author? What principles and characteristics does it show me of the lover of my soul?

I have had my heartbroken. It instilled me with a bitterness that I didn’t understand, but when it comes down to it, I realize that I ended the relationship that brought about that broken heart. I left and then felt hurt. I walked away and felt betrayed. WHAT? The Israelites did that with God.

The Old Testament contains this allegory: The prophet Hosea was called upon to marry a harlot, who gave him a two sons and a daughter. In chapter 2, Hosea divorces Gomer, his wife, because it’s generally acknowledged that his second son is not his. Then, God commands Hosea to take back his wayward wife, and to not only take her back, but to LOVE her again. By this time, Gomer is selling her body for money and Hosea has to forget and forgive a lot in order to take her back. The story of Hosea is the story of Israel; it is the story of us all. We are Gomer, the adulterous wife, and the Bible is his letter that lets it all go, all the disappointment, all the hurt… the cathartic message to a lost love. We had red-pen corrected the letter in our bitterness and tried to unread the love, there. I had tried to erase what was real because of what was painful – my own responsibility for the break.

I am going to try again, go back to the ultimate love letter and seek out the message behind the words, force myself to read the relationship in every line, to read the love letters as evidence of the relationship, not the precondition for one.

What verses do you see as love letters? How do you know from the Scriptures that God loves you?


6 responses to “Love Letters Unread

  1. These are the scriptures that came to mind when I ask myself if God really loves me.
    Romans 5:8
    “God shows His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
    Romans 8:39
    ” … neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)

    ….and if I did have any doubt about this…I can look at the skies he paints for me, the air I breath, the laughter he has brought to my life, the parents he gave me to teach me the right way, a husband and family that love me, the little blessings along the way, and if thats not enough…..then I can just look at you and know that HE must have loved me more than words can describe, because he gave you to ME!!

    Psalm 37:4
    “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

  2. Joel 2:25 “Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”

    When I read this it reminds me of a father telling his child that even though I had to discipline you so that you would grow and understand, I will restore all of the time you spent lonely, sad, scared, heart broken, etc. Many people point to the part of this scripture about restoration, and I have to admit, that is my favorite part as well, but the last line where God says that these locusts were His great army that He sent…actually brings comfort to me instead of anger at God for allowing it. It shows me that all things are for a purpose and that God truly doesn’t give us more than we can handle as long as we keep our eyes on Him. God knew I would struggle and have hardships. He knew I would need those to grow. But He is good. He will restore the parts of me that were destroyed. Because, the old me had to be destroyed in order to be restored as His. The struggles or destructive things that I face now are met with hope and faith that God will always restore me.

    • Redemption and restoration are so important. Just like we don’t break off every relationship at the least little provocation, God is going to keep forgiving us, but why would want to keep hurting him by breaking the trust we’ve received?

      Great thoughts, Katie.

  3. Michael Vasquez

    First of all, you’re an incredible writer, Kristen. It probably doesn’t mean much coming from a student- but I had to say it anyway. You are able to transition from personal experiences in your daily life to pertinent scriptures which relate to any issue that is presently on your mind *flawlessly*.

    To answer your question at the bottom though, two verses came to mind instantly (which I feel go together beautifully), and they’ve always comforted me:

    1) “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

    2) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
    – Jeremiah 29:11

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