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The Shoebox

Staff Member
The Shoebox

- July 14, 2005

Her beloved had been gone for several years. At first he wrote a letter every day. She waited excitedly for the mail to arrive each day. Her heartbeat would quicken, and her hands would quiver whenever she opened a new letter from her beloved. After reading each letter she would carefully and lovingly place in an old shoebox, tied shut with a red ribbon from the bouquet of roses he had given her before he left. This continued for one year. Then one day he told her that this would be his last letter. The next time she would hear from him would be in person.

>From time to time she would receive word from others that her beloved was safe and doing well, and that he was excited about his return to her side. She began to read the letters in the shoebox again. Each day she would read the letter she had received a year ago. Several years passed in this fashion. As she read the letters again and again, she noticed things that she had missed before. She began to see his heart, and she became overwhelmed at the depth of his love for her. In fact, it was for her that he had gone away. She memorized her favorite parts of his letters, and she began to carry the shoebox with her wherever she went. She loved her shoebox, because she loved her beloved.

There were some things in his letters that she didn't understand. He knew this would happen, and he told her in his letters that he would explain these things more fully when he returned. He intended for these "gaps" to show her that she was incomplete without him, but she began to speculate about their meaning, and soon she had very firm ideas about what life with him would be like.

Then, at last, one day he returned! The bliss of their reunion was indescribable. They spent hours just sitting, rejoicing in being together. He saw the shoebox and asked her why it was so worn and what was in it. She showed him his letters. He was thrilled to see that she had taken the time to read them and to study them, for that was part of his plan. He wanted to keep her connected to himself in his absence, and his letters were the means for that to happen. He told her to read them aloud to him, and that he would tell her what he had in mind when he wrote it. It was a happy time for them.

As she would read, he would tell her what was happening at the times when he had written them. The letters took on an even greater meaning. In his presence, the letters served to restore to both of them the years they had been apart. But then something happened. When she had dared to speculate on those parts of the letters she didn't understand, she had built in her own imagination a life different than the one her beloved intended. She had lived in this imaginary world as she dreamed of his return. Now that he was with her again, she was faced with admitting that her fantasies were inaccurate. When he would tell her something that didn't agree with her interpretation, she would dig a letter out of the shoebox and read it to him, telling him that he had to do it her way, because he had said so in his letters. They entered a time of turmoil, and their times together became less and less.

He still sought her, but she would lock herself away with her shoebox, reading the letters again and again, trying to reinforce her fantasies. Then one day she approached the shoebox, intending to dig out one specific letter that she had been arguing about with her beloved. Instead of seeing a shoebox of letters, she saw only the shoebox. This was not a shoebox of words. It was a shoebox of love. Instead of seeing the letters one at a time, as she had received them, she saw them as one message of, "I love you!" from her beloved. Every word in every letter had to be understood within that context, the context of "I love you!"

With a quickened heartbeat and quivering hands, she slowly untied the red ribbon, removed the lid, and began to read- not letters- but love. After many hours, she ran from the room in search of her beloved. She fell into his arms weeping, telling him how sorry she was for putting her ideas and interpretations ahead of him. His hand gently brushed her hair from her face, and his lips kissed away her tears. Taking her hand in his, he led her to a bench beside a quiet stream. He took the shoebox and beginning with his first letter, they read them while he told her of the life he had always intended for them to have together. As she surrendered her ideas and fantasies to his reality, she saw that what he had in mind was beyond anything she could have dreamed or imagined. Now the shoebox meant more to her than ever before, because she saw that it was a shoebox of love, instead of a shoebox of letters.

Contributed by Wayne Harmon. Wayne his wife, Susan, have been married 31 years and have five adult children. Wayne moderates the Christian Thinkers group on InJesus.com.