My early morning devotional led me to the third book of John–his letter to Gaius. And in this book there is only one chapter, 14 verses, and in that one chapter, there is a powerful message. Now I have to admit the only verse I was familiar with in this chapter was verse four and it was highlighted in my Bible. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 1:4)
Have I ever heard this chapter of the Bible preached, the story told? Have I ever read it for myself, truly read it? The walls of the sanctuary doesn’t seal out the world and its deafening noise. It is up to us to ask for a cleansing of our heart in times of worship.
The writer of the devotional titled her story, “Love Beyond Borders” and she used John’s letter to his friend and missionary Gaius as a basis for her lesson–the need for us to spread the truth, spread love, not only with our neighbors and those we know–but with strangers alike.
John wrote the letter to Gaius praising him for his ministry–for his testimony, for his love toward his brethren, strangers, and his faithfulness.
For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. (3 John 1:3)
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers: Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well. (3 John 1:5-6)
And as John closed out his letter to Gaius he said he had many more things to write, but he would not. He would save his thoughts until they would saw each other and could speak–face to face.
And here is where my lesson from the book of third John was revealed. Devotionals are like this–they lead us to pondering on the writer’s message and can often times lead us deeper into God’s word.
I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee. But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name. (3 John 1:13-14)
I can imagine Gaius sitting on a large rock alone–folding the cherished letter from his dear friend and mentor. And as he folded it he did so with a smile and a heart filled with gratitude as he reflected on the encouragement John gave as well as the anticipation of seeing him soon–face to face.
Wonder what more John wanted to say?
I think back when I had the honor of sharing and writing others’ stories and having them featured in our local newspaper and the many oral history projects I did while in college. Many of the interviews had to be conducted by phone or through email because of people’s schedules or the distance between us. But there was this difference in sitting side by side, face to face–hearing and listening to their stories. A big difference.
I saw faces light up with joy–eyes filled with tears–nervous, fidgeting hands–heads bowed. And I saw unspoken hurt. I heard unbridled laughter–heard unexpected raw emotions. And question after question I would ask and then they would say something completely unexpected and my planned interview would go flying out the window. Their words would trigger other questions and thoughts and they would respond and at that moment–that special moment I knew–there is the heart of their story. There it is. And God in those moments was teaching me to let go of what I thought I knew and focus on the person in front of me and what they were actually teaching and sharing with me–stories that still and will forever hold a place in my heart.
Perhaps John knew it was his time to be silent and hear from Gaius, how he was–what he needed in his ministry–how he could be of more help. Maybe John needed to see Gaius and just hear his voice.
We all need community. We all need conversation. We all need inspirational stories. We all need encouragement. We all need each other.
The past year has been one of isolation for all of us in one way or another. Each of us with our own fears and worries. Hidden behind masks and computer screens–virtual this and virtual that–glass cages it seems. But if we are truly honest this isolation didn’t start a year ago–it’s always been around. It’s hidden in the lonely of shut-ins, the elderly, the widows, the downtrodden, in the heart of a scared child, a misunderstood teenager. There is this suffering of isolation in all of us. But within that isolation we all have a choice–we can be a part of the healing–other’s healing and our own healing. We can choose to do more for others–love more–pray more–encourage more along the way whether it be by the sharing of our stories, sending a written letter or card, dropping a small ‘I’m thinking of you’ gift on the front porch or picking up the phone and dialing a number, hearing a voice on the other line, and knowing without sight–they are smiling.
John needed Gaius’ fellowship and encouragement as much as Gaius needed his.
I was sitting across from him in a chair, the seat was well worn and made the creaking sounds of an old wooden floor that many a footstep had walked. This elderly man surrounded by his life’s work as the owner of a country hardware store. A place where if only the walls could have talked, the building would not have been able to contain the history and laughter and conversation of this place. And me, there I was with my notepad of prepared questions and my recorder. And we began the interview and question after question he would answer humbly, sometimes full of laughter in conversation and a few times he would point at me with a smile and say, ‘don’t write that down’. And my pen would take a rest and the recorder, turned to silence. And we would talk. Just talk. About the good ole days and the hard days and the hope of the promise of the days to come.
Writer’s notes: I started this blog a few years ago to share God’s word and glorify His name and uplift others through encouragement, inspiration, and story. We all need Him and we all need encouragement and inspiration. We all need stories. If you have a God story or know someone who has one or a story idea of a need that you feel would uplift and help others and most importantly bring honor and glory to Him, I would love to hear more and possibly feature your story here or in future storytelling projects. Please email me your at email@example.com.