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“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” — Jeremiah 31:3
“It was the love letters—that’s what really helped.” I was having a conversation with a military wife who had struggled for years through an unhappy marriage—but had seen that marriage turn around, slowly at first, because of changes that only God could have brought about.
One of the steps this couple had taken in their journey to marriage recovery was attending a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage conference several years ago. I wasn’t surprised that one of the projects they completed that weekend—to write each other love letters—had been instrumental in getting them back on the right track.
In ministry to military marriages, my husband and I hear about the value of those love letters a lot. It is one reason why we are glad that taking the time to write your spouse is a project in several of the HomeBuilders small group Bible studies, including Making Your Marriage Deployment Ready. Putting deep feelings down on paper can be a difficult exercise, but the benefits are priceless. To remember (again) what attracted you to your spouse in the beginning, to recount what you appreciate about each other, and to express how you hope to grow in love with God and each other . . . these declarations can take a fractured relationship and begin the process to regain wholeness. Not just writing, but giving, that letter to your spouse is truly the “gift that keeps on giving.”
In our culture of instant messaging, texting, email and cell phones it’s too easy to just share information. Sharing feelings is what keeps a couple connected through the ups and downs of marriage, especially during deployment. Sometimes this takes putting pen to paper—a time-tested tradition in which we can communicate information, share feelings from the heart, and have something tangible which your loved one can read. . . and re-read. . . during the lonely times of separation.
A Marine wife shared a letter exchange with me (and with his permission) that she and her husband had during one of his deployments. She had written and asked him, “What is it like to be loved by me?” Part of his answer included these words: “To know that one is loved at all produces a special type of resilience to whatever obstacles one faces, lifts the spirit, and gives one a sense of self-worth. No matter what happens in this life of mine, I know that I am loved by God, and that knowledge alone helps me through all the negative things that I may encounter whether they are from outside influences, or from within my own self. At the same time, this type of love magnifies the joy that life brings as well, giving love this awesome ability to protect, discipline, and bring happiness to ones self and to others as well.” Wow!
Stonewall Jackson is a wonderful role model for this—among the great letter-writers of all times. He had a beautiful marriage, and shared his thoughts oftentimes in correspondence with his wife. During the Civil War, one of his letters to her read, “When in prayer for you last Sabbath, the tears came to my eyes, and I realized an unusual degree of emotional tenderness. I have not yet fully analyzed my feelings to my satisfaction, so as to arrive at the cause of such emotions; but I am disposed to think that it consisted in the idea of the intimate relation existing between you, as the object of my tender affection, and God, to whom I looked up as my Heavenly Father. I felt that day as if it were a communion day for myself.” Life and Letters of General Jackson, p. 67.
We have two old trunks at our house filled with memorabilia. One includes letters from World War II, from my parents to each other as my father was serving in the Army Air Corps while my mother was waiting with little children at Romulus Air Field in Michigan and Hondo Air Field in Texas. The other trunk contains letters from the Vietnam War. . . from my husband and I to each other during our time apart. And it is not unusual for me to come across others who share that they have “discovered” a shoe box in their grandparents attic—filled with letters from past wars. I have to admit that when I read old family letters, I do not feel like I am “invading” personal lives. . . but rather standing on hallowed ground. I feel that I am a part of what took place years past and is now a part of our family legacy—the deep expression of loving feelings which have weathered the test of time.
So whether you struggle to find the right words—and choose instead to purchase an appropriate card. . . or write down the simple truth “I love you” on a slip of paper before putting it into an envelope. . . these words are gifts to your spouse, the impact of which may be beyond what you can now imagine.
And let us never forget that the greatest “love letter” to you and to me. . . is the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation and in every book in-between we see and read of God’s great love for us:
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.” — 1 Chronicles 16:34
“But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and abounding in love.” — Nehemiah 9:17
“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your love, O LORD, supported me.” — Psalm 94:18
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” — Lamentations 3:21-23
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship (or deployment) or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.” — Romans 8:35, 37-39
Amen and Amen. . . . What a Love Letter!
Tuley, Terry, Battlefield & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The Civil War (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2006), p. 186.
Questions to Share:
1. Have you ever hand-written a love letter to your spouse? If you did take that opportunity, what would you want to express?
2. Do you know that you are loved? Make a list of the ways in which you know you are loved by others and by God.