The 1995 movie A Walk in the Clouds begins with scenes of a young married couple separated by war. He is in Europe fighting with the United States Army in World War II. She is back home going out with other men. The film shows him in the thick of the fighting but still faithfully taking the time to write home to his dear wife whenever he can.
Finally, the war is over and he comes home to New York. It is a delightful scene, with hundreds of soldiers walking off the ship to meet their excited loved ones running to meet them. There is much happiness and joy and laughter. But no one comes to meet this young man who has seen and survived so much and who wrote so many letters. He searches all through the crowd, but does not see his wife. Before long the crowd is gone and he is there alone. He calls a cab to take him home to his apartment.
When he opens the door his wife runs to him, wraps her arms around him and welcomes him home. When they’re done hugging and kissing, he asks her, “Honey, why weren’t you at the ship to meet me?”
“Well,” she replies, “I did not know you were coming today.”
“But honey,” he says with disbelief, “I have been writing to you for weeks about my coming home on this day. How could you not know? Did you not get any of my letters?”
“Oh, the letters,” she said. “Yes, I received lots of letters from you, and they are all right here,” she said, handing him a large box.
He looked into the box, and again with disbelief he says sadly, “Most of these letters are not even opened.”
“Yes, I know,” she said, “I read some of them, but it was too depressing to read about the war and all that fighting and how lonely you were; so I just quit reading them. But I saved every single one. You sure were faithful about writing.”
These first ten minutes of the movie set the stage for rest of the story by creating in the moviegoer an affection for the faithful young man and a strong dislike for his unloving and uncaring bride; and this one scene certainly does accomplish that. It almost overdoes it. Who could be so thoughtless to not even take the time to read the letters from a loved one away at war? One would think she would want to read every word over and over again in order to be as close as possible to her loved one who is absent, even if that closeness was only through words on a page.
For a time God is absent from our sight. He is indeed with us, now and always, but we cannot see him or hear his voice, no more than that young husband and wife could see each other. But this separation is not what God intended from the beginning. Genesis chapters two and three describe Adam and Eve talking with God openly. But their sin, and then our sin, has led to the separation that now exists. God has made occasional appearances over the years to folks like Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. And for 33 years God walked this earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. And someday, as the New Testament tells us, believers will again live in the visible presence of God. “I will take you to my Father’s house,” said Jesus in John 14. “God’s home will be with us,” says Revelation 21, “and we will live with him.” But not yet. For now, God is absent from our sight and our hearing.
But God has not left us completely. He has left us his Word, words on a page (as in a letter) for us to read so that we can keep in touch while we are separated. And all the most important things that we need to know for life now and for eternal life are there in that Word of God. Romans 15:4 says these words were written to teach us and to encourage us so that we may have hope. We have been created by God. God gives us our every heartbeat and breath, and in a short time from now when we must die, God will be our only hope. You would certainly think that any messages he would leave to us about himself would be read with great care, over and over again. You would think that anyone who believed in this God at all would want to know everything about him and what he says about life and death. You would think that all Christians everywhere would want to read for themselves, every day, that Word of God.
The young wife in the movie had her reasons for not reading her husband’s letters. Many people who never read the Bible also have reasons. The Bible is a big book and it is in many places very hard to understand. Reading it poses a daunting challenge to even the most devout and determined believer. Many folks who have made a serious attempt at it have given up in frustration.
But just because it is difficult doesn’t mean it cannot be done. There are ways one can get into this huge difficult book and get something out of it. Reading or hearing a little bit at a time is one good method. These brief Emailmeditations set before you at least three Bible verses each day, a few bits of God’s Word for you. These words of Scripture, said Paul, are to encourage you so that you may have hope. And we all need hope, so do not ignore what has been written for us.
Romans 15:4 — For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 — All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Romans 10:17 — Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Almighty, everlasting God, heavenly Father, whose Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our way: Open and enlighten my mind that I may understand your Word purely, clearly, devoutly, and then, having understood it aright, fashion my life in accord with it, in order that I may never displease you; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our dear Lord. Amen.
–Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558)