Christmas is coming and the geese aren’t the only ones getting fat. Even as Thanksgiving is still a few days away, my family and I have already begun exchanging food preparation ideas, old and new recipes, special prayers to invoke before we dive in, and of course, the names of those who are going to clean up everything once we have done our significant damage. To that end, I am always looking for books and materials at estate and garage sales, libraries and yes, even half-priced booksellers for older books that chronicle how exciting, fun and memorable these family days used to be and how they can be again if we set our minds to it. This year, I found a gem entitled, “It’s a Wonderful Christmas: The Best of the Holidays 1940-1965,” which has provided so many neat concepts that I am sure it will provide suggestions for the next couple of years. But it also contained a remarkable surprise. On the back cover there was an envelope taped securely and clearly marked, “Open Only in Case of Emergency.” I don’t know about you but my curiosity was eating me alive and after I realized that I would never know the previous owner or the circumstances surrounding this strange note with cryptic instructions, I decided to declare the moment an emergency and opened the envelope. I thought there may be some money in there. No, but there was something much more valuable. Here is the text intact:
“I don’t know if you will have to open this next week, next year or even 20 years from now. I am not even sure if you will be the one who finally reads this. But if you are reading this, it means that something terrible or monumental has happened. I am thinking that it may be because someone you love very much has died, or something involving your health or the health of a loved one, or your work, career or some tragic disappointment or unforeseen catastrophe has occurred that has brought you to think if only for a minute that your life is somehow over. It may mean that I have died because it couldn’t have been you that went to Heaven since you’re reading this! (example of disarming humor. Hope it worked.)
Whatever the reason, I want you to remember a few things:
1. This too shall Pass. During the first 20 years of your life of which I was a primary witness, this proved to be true over and over again. I truly believe it will be again.
2. Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. We both know what we’ve both have been through the worst years of your life. By now you should be so strong that you could bench press an F-350.
3. When much is given a man, much is expected. Expect great things from yourself, from those whom you have assembled around you, and most importantly from Jesus. He has never left you. Never will. Especially now.
4. If you’ve hit rock bottom, remember this: IT IS ROCK. It is solid, firm and you can and will rebuild part of your life or your entire life. You have done this before and you can do this again.
5. Even and especially if the news today is about a terminal illness, you still must recover from the impact, ask to be anointed and Prepare either for a different kind of life here or the much better one promised to you.
Okay, Son, that’s it. I have lifted you to Jesus ahead of time for this particular moment, so wherever I am today, my prayers are already here with you. This life has been an amazing journey and we have been richly blessed. I can’t wait to see you again.”
I was stunned. My thoughts mingled with my imagination to try to figure this out. Obviously, it was from a father to his son. But why did he not receive it? Why was this book discarded? Did the two have a fight? Did the son die before his father? After a couple of weeks it occurred to me that at least one of the reasons that this letter was in my hands was so that I could share it with you and attempt to fathom its meaning as it applies to our life.
I immediately prayed for both father and son wherever they would be today. Then I wrote a similar letter to the ones closest to me and placed them in Bibles with similar instructions and thanked God for having found this treasure. In one dictionary, the definition of an emergency was rendered as a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action. Well, obviously it was an emergency and action was taken. I wonder how many emergencies we miss every day?