My friend Kristen tells me that leaving a message on my cell phone is like putting a message in a bottle and tossing it in the ocean. This was her gentle way of exhorting me to check my messages more often.
But the comment got me to thinking about the folkloric “message in a bottle,” and about how precious the words of the message seem—not only because of the mystery but also because of the words’ scarcity: There are only a scant number of words that can be effectively rolled up and stuffed in a bottle. (A postcard inserted into a beer bottle in 1913 was picked up in March of this year out of the Baltic Sea, more than 100 years later. Unfortunately, the writing is smeared and we await the work of experts to reconstruct the brine-soaked scrawl.)
That got me fantasizing about being the recipient of such a wonderful find. What if I popped the cork of the ancient glass vessel and carefully removed its contents with tweezers, and carefully unfurled the scrolled material—and what if the writing was a Bible verse? And what if I happened to own no Bible and this shard of Scripture was the only portion of the Word of God I possessed? Wouldn’t I treasure it immensely? Wouldn’t I read it over and over and pause over each word and commit it to memory and think deeply about its meaning?
The other day I read only a small bit of Scripture rather than the long draught I normally prefer. It was in Ephesians but it could have been almost any book:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV).
It was all I had to run with all day—like the finder of a message in a bottle who has nothing more to go on but this, and so keeps ruminating on the same few words. I find that even if one is in a hurry, if one picks up the smallest portion of God’s Word and carries it around and chews on it, it will speak to him.
I was very conscious all day long of putting on humility and gentleness and patience and forbearance toward my husband. The assignment could serve as a lifetime’s work that would gradually branch out and lead its devotee to greater understanding and insight.
Moreover, the more I meditated on the verses, the more I saw its exhortations as things God intends for us to do, not mere religious sentiments. We have the Spirit in us! Therefore let us do it.
Do be gentle today, Andrée. Do be longsuffering and not quickly annoyed. This is God’s message for you today—more precious than gold or silver, or any human message in a bottle.