The Wandering Pulpit – My New Sincerely
Wander with me a moment back to the year 1996. I was a second grader at Platte Valley Elementary School in Kersey, Colorado and I can still remember when our class was informed that there was going to be a mailing service for students within the school so that we could send letters to one another. It may not seem like much now but to a class of 2nd graders it was one of the most exciting things we had ever heard. Our class enthusiastically chose a classroom name which would have to be written properly on the address line of every letter. I have no idea what a bunch of 2nd graders wrote to each other but I do remember it was always exciting to get a letter in your little box. It was a good way to teach children how to properly write and mail a letter and something I still remember fondly to this day. I also remember being taught how you should sign a letter. There were several options to choose from: 1. From. 2. Love. 3. Sincerely. I remember wanting to use this third option (it seemed more grown up) but because it was hard to spell as a 2nd grader I rarely did (spelling is still not my thing, unfortunately). I do not remember using “love” very often either (probably because it seemed too wimpy in my 2nd grader mind). So I settled for “from”, the most generic of all letter closings. I probably sent more letters that year than the rest of my life combined (purely because of the invention of email) but the problem of how to close a letter has continued on ever since then.
How do you conclude letters and emails? In the years since my introduction to writing letters in 2nd grade I have used all sorts of statements, sometimes I would simply use “sincerely” (I thankfully did figure that one out), at other times when appropriate I would use “your brother in Christ”, or “your fellow servant in the Lord” and for a time I used “because He lives”, but I could never settle on just one for my standard closing. That is until this last fall when I settled on my new sincerely, my new standard closing to any letter or email. Are you ready for it? Here it is: “By His Grace”. Okay, I know it is nothing mind-blowing and you might even be wondering why on earth I am writing about this subject in the first place but wander just a bit further with me.
The closing of a letter is important; it leaves the final impression the reader will have for everything they just read. A lot can be communicated in just a word or a few words at the end of a letter. If you ever received a note from someone you were romantically interested in and it was signed “love” your heart skipped a beat! Or if it was signed simply “from”or “sincerely” you knew that was not a good sign for your future plans. So I asked myself, what do I want to communicate in a standard closing statement, and the answer came upon me suddenly. God’s grace! God’s grace is the number one thing I want to communicate to everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from. God’s grace is the answer! It is my answer keeping me humble and providing me with strength to carry on day by day. It is the answer to the one who is in grief. It is the answer to the one who is rejoicing. It is the answer to the saved and to the unsaved. The great and the small. No matter what is going on God’s grace is present and all of us would do well to be reminded of it.
What is grace? Grace is unmerited favor. That is receiving something we do not deserve. Mercy, which is often confused with grace, is not receiving what we do deserve. Grace takes mercy a step further because it means giving to the undeserving. Everything that we receive from God, apart from judgment (which we do deserve), is an act of grace on His part. We are alive because of His grace, we possess all of our natural talents,abilities and skills because of His grace, and most importantly we can be forgiven of our sins and have a relationship with Him because of His grace. But His grace does not end there, because of His grace I can receive strength from Him to deny myself and my sinful nature so that I might do what is right and be a blessing to those around me. Because of His grace when difficult times come I know that He goes through the valleys with me. Because of His grace His calling is not a burden but a blessing (Matthew 11:28-30). Because of His grace I can face whatever may come my way with hope, peace and faith (Philippians 4:12-13).
The more I am reminded of God’s grace in my daily life the better. Some have said that to treat grace in such a way is to demean it, to take it too lightly but I disagree. The more I dwell on God’s grace the better my perspective is on everything, including my own existence. So if a closing of a letter or email is able to remind me or someone else of God’s amazing grace than that is what I want to do. Take a moment to read 2 Corinthians 9:8 & 12:7-10 and contemplate God’s all sufficient grace in your own life and how you might be able to remind yourself and others of it.