BY: CHRISTY KIM
“Yeah you can write me a love letter
but there’s nothing to say
don’t want to take a chance on your paper romance anyway.”
– Groove Armada, Paper Romance
She wondered what she was playing at as she finished her letter to her pen pal.
It was nice to have a pen pal, her acquaintances had said when she had mentioned it in passing, and her friends had agreed that it would be nice to exchange thoughts with someone not of this school, and a scholarship kid at that. Only her few closest friends knew her ex-crush in person, and none of them knew that she was writing to him with the quill-and-paper set they had gifted to her for Christmas.
Everyone knew bits of the secret but only she possessed the whole picture.
She skirted a dangerous line – confidences had to be divulged delicately and even more so on paper, because she did not know how much of the confidence was wanted; how insightful he’d find her inane rambling; what mood he’d be in when he received it. No wonder people stuck to social media, in which they did not have to worry about crafting words around an audience. Such little things compounded with the big things – did he think of her frankness as endearing or overbearing, her praise warm or sycophantic? In the first correspondence she had brushed their past history under the writing-table, scratching I have yet to meet someone on whom I can develop a silly crush, like I did with you. (She hoped that she sounded surer of her guardedness than she felt).
She had not said “little” crush because he had thanked her for it, turning her embarrassment into a cause for gratitude.
How much of her writing was not ingrained politeness or flippancy, it was hard to tell. She’d written many things for various persons, and sometimes the words sounded so hollow, so lavish in adulation that they ceased to carry meaning. The same for her grandparents every year – live long, thank you for raising my parents and being patient with them – and her parents – thank you for being patient with me, I know I’m a handful. The finishing touch an almost perfunctory, “I love you”, the routine made more meaningful by peppering details that she’d excruciatingly fished out of her confused mental aggregations of them, their actions and what neediness to be assuaged might be lurking behind those actions. She winced when people threw out “love” in trivial chit-chat, but she was guilty of the same thing on paper, if she dared write it.
As if writing it down would make it more sincere. (The idea’s the important thing, she’d argue, but it was tricky when they as Christians were advised to bear good fruit. If a letter was mere intention, then how was she to convey her “here for you”-ness? Sporadic likes on Facebook?)
A letter was such an intimate thing, so easy to be misconstrued. She could not imagine writing to her high school friends, now in different states. Two were the types to draw, not write, and one tweeted letter-equivalents daily, and one didn’t speak English as a first language. It would be cruel to demand their care through media that did not suit them.
Besides, she would feel taxed finding all of the sincere, right things to say, and it would show, and the letters would dribble to a halt. If she stooped so low to write the same thing for each person to save time, then she might as well type and print – why stop there, why not just email the letters? Write the same words for everyone? How generic – it’s like reading horoscopes or blood type personality tests, in which the same blanket statements, apply to one-twelfth or one-fourth of the entire population.
Yet, a love letter to many people is exactly what God wrote – and it achieved more than any individually addressed letter written by man.
“The Bible is like, God’s love letter,” one of the girls in her small group had remarked with amazement.
They had learned about God’s covenant in Genesis. He Himself was originator of the covenant, for He had promised and in promising had given words their true purpose as binding, contractual sounds. The vow did not bestow power on Him; He sanctified the vow to love you (and you, and you, and him, and her and that trans-person that you eye in class, aware of your prejudices jarring with your confused interpretation of His commands).
To imagine that she could write a love letter, and have it read out loud, and discussed and debated over by billions; to hear her loved ones openly sneer and claim that her love was not real, that she was not real; to have it distributed, copies upon copies, and have it to resonate with every reader – her feeble human courage could not possibly cope. How intentional must every single word be, how crafted each sentence, how secure its truth to convey such an emotion? She couldn’t do it and no author in the history of penpal-ship attempted; only He succeeded.
Only He could know each of us so well to write one letter that is so precise in its accuracy as to pierce all of our hearts with an arrow attached to a living, vibrating lifeline we call Jesus Christ.
Did it not hurt for him, that he could bear being so open? We know that it hurt, because in order to complete the covenant, to write the New Testament He had to send His only son, and He turned away His face when Jesus cried My God why have you forsaken me on the cross. Was His love so consuming, then, that it overpowered any fear of having His love dismissed as not good enough? Or did He see so much to love in us that His love left no room for fear?
Sometimes she was cold to the love, and instead of asking for ears to hear and eyes to see and the wisdom to discern, she pleaded, please favor me. I know you love me, but you give the same love to everyone else. Please bless me more.
But that He had crafted the words to be individually internalized and eloquent in their universality was a cause for hope, not for petty jealousy. That so many people could feel the love effused by the Bible told her, in itself, that they were all wired to be entranced by the same fire, and so this commonality could span the sometimes formidable distance between her and others. Like a child that sees fireflies dancing and wants to bottle them up, as if trapping them would make the vivacity his, it was her right to her sinful, broken self to demand to intake His burning love, and for it to consume the worldly things obstructing her heart and turn them into ashes. She was meant to rise from them anew as a creature of His grace and walk among the people of this world, addled by the gratitude and by the fire in her eyes illuminating how He saw them, so that her love may overflow and writing love letters would not be taxing.
To love, and to be so whole in the loving that the rawness did not daunt, the rejection did not taunt – how wonderful was that?
The constant conversations in her life were dilutions of the real thing. Little wonder He did not talk in person, for not only would His glory overwhelm her, she would also misunderstand His speech, all meaning and none of the tentative falling-flat awkwardness of people, signaling,
Hi, can I reveal a bit of myself to you? Will you judge me weak and hurt me?
Can I take that chance?
I’ll just say nothing at all, but we’ll still part as if we shared something, because the world has given us plenty of templates for constant conversations.
She was scared, but believed that the fear would fall away and that she would land on the safe harbor of his promised vow. She believed that every letter she wrote could approach the clarity of regard that her penpal seemed to crave and to need to return. For He first had taken a chance and had written the greatest love letter anyway, had so much to say that the story had never stopped throughout the ages, and was slowly teaching her how to take a chance with love, unafraid.