I collected your letter from my mailbox this past week right before my family came home. It meant a lot to me to receive it when I did. I happened to get my mail right before I drove to Pasadena to visit a friend and I sat in my car for a bit to read it. As always, I found myself sitting with your writing a bit longer than most to better understand the nuances of the things you say. When I was packing up my dorm room last month, I came across your packet of poetry that you gave me before you went back to Germany. I read a few of them again and it was interesting to see which ones struck me that time around.
To be honest, I was really overwhelmed by your letter for more reasons than just the one mentioned. Lately, I've been reflecting a lot on the significance that letters have seemed to carry throughout history and throughout my life. I've been reading this C.S. Lewis biography by Alister McGrath and I've discovered that a lot of what we know about Lewis is because of his letters (and obviously his books, but even The Screwtape Letters is a nod to the significance of letters). Although the prevalence of written letters has certainly decreased as we become increasingly "digital" people, I can name so many more reasons as to why letters carry so much weight to me.
The faith that I ascribe to is largely based upon a collection of letters written in the early first century. When I was in the fifth grade, a group of my friends wrote me a letter to inform me of everything that they felt I needed to change about myself in order to be their friend. Getting mail at the numerous summer camps I attended in grade school was the one of the best parts of the week away. Some of the most encouraging and uplifting things people have said to me was in the form of written letters, many of which I keep in a plastic bag in my closet. I have read a letter from a friend's father that ended her relationship with him and yet also read a letter that reconciled a relationship between lovers. Writing letters gives a sense of finality to words. I can't say more and I can't say less than what's on the page. I can only write what I really think is most important to let them know and trust them to take my words as seriously as I did when I wrote them.
The fact that you wrote me an entire letter means a lot to me. I wish I could put these words together as well as you do, but I just don't think "delicate eloquence" is my thing. I think if our writing were pairs of shoes, yours would be a rose-colored ballet shoes and mine would be construction boots. Yours is graceful and deliberate and mine feels more lumbering and durable. I'm working on it. I was talking to my friend Alea, who also has a more elegant writing style, and I asked her how she does it. She laughed and said, "A lot of it is reading things that you want to write. A lot of it is emulation." I think that's really good advice.
Apart from your writing, I've always admired your treatment of those around you. You operate in life with a general fearlessness and your hope is contagious. People want to be close to you in hopes that some of you will rub off onto them. Kind of like emulating good writing, reading you is a peek into emulating good living. You are so fully yourself and invite those around you to join in. In some ways, you taught me more about my faith in Jesus with your faith in Allah in the sense that sometimes the holiest places are not in the church and the holiest moments are not in deliberate verbal or internal monologued prayer. Does that make sense? I'll just say this instead: I miss you like crazy. (But hopefully we'll be on the same continent soon!)
Love you lots, praying for you always.