magine opening your mailbox and finding an envelope with your namehandwritten on the outside. In the upper-left corner is the name of someone you love. You haven’t seen them in years. Upon opening the letter, these are the first few lines:
I thank my God every time I remember you. Every single time I pray for you, I pray with joy.
Several years ago, I was speaking a retreat. We were hanging out in Philippians – one chapter per talk. The first night, I shared the opening lines (which are almost verbatim to what I have in quotes above), and asked the students and leaders what impact that letter would have.
It would make my day!
It would change my whole month!
I would keep it forever!
How about you? What if you got that letter? What impact would it have?
At the retreat, I followed that by asking them the same question I’ll ask you now: Is there anyone who has had an impact on your life whom you haven’t seen in a while?
Then I challenged them with the same challenge I’m giving you: Write the letter.
If you know the impact it would have on you AND you already have someone in mind whom you’re thankful for, why would you not write the letter?
That night, after challenging these students to write the letter, I went back to my room and had a Come-to-Jesus meeting with…well…Jesus. He asked me whom I was thankful for. Then He told me to write the letter.
It only took me about five seconds to figure out who would receive the letter.
His name is Joe. I met him when I was a junior high student in Spokane, WA. He was the area director for Young Life. At the time, Young Life was only a ministry to high school students. (Not any more, since the start of WyldLife. Sweet.)
My brother was in high school and we had a big rec room in our house. That meant about 40-70 high school students would pile into our house every few weeks to play crazy games, watch hilarious skits, and hear about Jesus.
I would watch from the stairs, longing for the day when I was a cool, high school kid. (Made it to high school. Not sure about the “cool” part.)
Joe would always talk to me. Always smile at me. Always ask me how I was doing. Always.
Joe is one of those people who makes you feel better about yourself just being around him. (Know anyone like that?)
One week he came up to me and said, “Hey Keith. Want to have breakfast this week?”
Several times over the next couple years he would pick me up before school and we’d head to the Apple Barrel. We would talk. Ok, mostly Joe would ask a question and listen to me ramble. He prayed for my family. He took a genuine interest in me. In me, a junior high kid whom he didn’t have to spend time with.
And Joe would always pay. I would always offer, but every time, he would smile and say,“Someday you’ll be grown up and have a job. Then you can pay.”
The letter was super easy to write. Only took me about 15 minutes. When I got home, I plopped it in the mail – and honestly – forgot about it.
Until a few weeks later when I got this email:
Thank you so much for your letter. It’s been a challenging couple years and I was considering leaving ministry. This letter was just what I needed. Thank you.
I’m sure there was much more than just my letter that God used to encourage Joe, but I can tell you that he remained in ministry for several more years before retiring. He impacted thousands of students – and leaders – over several decades of ministry.
Please. Write the letter. Today. The person you’re thinking of needs to read it.
Now, I have to wrap this up and hit “Publish” so I can hop in my car and meet Joe for lunch. First time we have shared a meal in almost 10 years. I can’t wait to thank him again.
And this time…I’m paying.
Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net – “Old Letter” – Simon Howden