The Messages We Carry

“There’s a certain Slant of light / Winter Afternoons . . .” That’s what Emily Dickinson noticed. But then, when spring finally comes, the afternoon light broadens and the world lights up in vivid pastels. Spring afternoons are so bright it hurts.

In spring we think about the inside of things.

“Is there really a flower inside those buds?” my daughter asks on the walk to school. Three magnolia trees stand along our route. I’ve already told her these elongated buds will soon be flowers, but I guess she wants to hear it again.

One day, the trees speak for themselves, their tone of voice bright pink: “See? Mom was right—the flowers were inside those fuzzy buds the whole time.”

You know, I’ve been doing research for my shipwreck book. (Your what? I know how it sounds. It will either be brilliantly original or idiosyncratically crazy.) And thinking about messages in bottles.

Sometimes you’re the message.

I had the chance to speak to a moms’ group this week, and the bottom line of my message was that nothing is wasted. God wastes nothing.

There were people at the meeting who didn’t bring a message, except for themselves. Their message wasn’t typed up in notes. Some of these women—their very presence is a message:

Peace.

I see you.

Been there, too.

You matter.

You’re enough.

As a writer, I’m often wrapped up in the medium of language, making the message airtight in its carefully sealed bottle. But in that realm beyond or beneath words, I wonder what the message of my presence is. I hope it’s unifying instead of divisive, peaceful rather than contentious. What message does your presence bring?

Eugene Peterson interprets St. Paul’s “jars of clay” passage like this: “We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives” (2 Cor. 4:7). In essence we may be clay, but let’s not discount the pot that carries every possibility.

The bottle is absolutely crucial; it keeps the message afloat. But the message—the message inside will be our legacy.