The Bible is many things to many people. To all who revere it as the Word of the Living God, it is perfect, flawless and as timely today as when it was penned by the holy human vessels selected and directed by its author. If one spends enough time within its covers, the Bible fosters a personal bond between itself and the reader that grows deeper and more intimate each day.
Many years ago, as a young lad stationed aboard an attack aircraft carrier deployed overseas, my thoughts often turned toward home. One of the highlights of the workday was when the mail plane arrived. Every sailor knew the low humming engines of that particular twin-propped aircraft. It seemed to stand out over the whine of all the other modern jet aircraft taking off and trapping on the flight deck.
When the mail plane arrived, where possible, work came to a grinding halt around the ship as sailors waited for the mail to be sorted and delivered to the different departments. What seemed like an eternity eventually passed and small groups of sailors gathered around the designated distribution areas. The long wait culminated with the mail clerk for the department climbing the nearest desk or chair and calling out the names on each envelope and package.
These were the most arduous moments of the entire seven month deployment; waiting to see if you had received word from home, in particular from that special one in your life. One shipmate would gleefully call out "here sir" when his name was called, while another would solemnly hang his head as it became clear that there was no letter for him that day.
On one occasion I remember my name being called out and the clerk humorously "sniffing" the letter and raising his eyebrows several times in front of the crew before handing it to me. His antics and the crew's laughter didn't bother me. I knew from their gestures that the letter was from my wife and I found myself uncontrollably shouting what I can only label as a "war whoop" of happiness.
The letter had an immediate positive impact upon my morale. A moment earlier I had been inwardly mortified at the prospect of not receiving a letter. The next moment I was suddenly in bliss when I heard my name called. Working my way to the front of the crowd, I grabbed my letter and quickly confirmed that it was from my sweetheart.
There was no time to read the letter however, as we had jets in the air, so I quickly stuffed it into my pocket and hurried off to my work station. I would have time to read it later. At my first break I tore the letter open and searched quickly for the words "all my love" above the signature, a habit most sailors develop as a result of the high instance of "Dear John" letters received by those on extended deployments.
Once I ascertained that love still flourished, I turned to the first page and read the letter as quickly as possible absorbing all of the sweet nothings my eyes could focus on. Hurrying back to the flight line, I put the letter away until I could digest more of it at my next break or at lunch.
Evening came and we secured from flight quarters. I took the letter out of my pocket and read it again slowly and earnestly, picturing my wife sitting and writing the words meant just for me. After meditating on all she said, I then read it again, and then again and finally one last time before I went to sleep for the night. The words stuck in my mind and carried me to sleepů"I love you, I know you have a job to do, and I will be waiting for you to come home." How important and wonderful those words were to me.
As I consider the closeness I enjoy with God through faithful, daily reading of his word, it occurs to me that the Bible is very much like the love letters my wife sent to me. It is a love letter from God to his children and an encouragement for us while we are away from home. For believers, the Lord is essentially saying "I love you. I know you have a job to do, and I will be waiting for you to come home."
Believers should be so intimate with the Lord that they can hardly wait to open his love letter each day and read the words he has for us. We should eagerly read them over and over and over again to assure ourselves of his unending and wonderful love for us and to strengthen us while we are away from him. The Bible will take on a new meaning for the Christian who sees it as a love letter and not just a book of required reading.