An envelope, while it remains unopened, is an entire universe of possibilities, terrific and terrible, glorious and gross. Once disemboweled, however, all possibilities cease to exist, and we are forced to accept the contents as they are, unchangeable, immutable.
I have a small collection of envelopes sitting here on my desk, waiting to be opened. They are not bills that I am trying to ignore, or ads from some company trying to sell me some service, but cards that were deliberately chosen for me by people who wanted to express something to me as I end my time working for The Alley.
I really don’t know why I haven’t opened them yet. I mean, there could be anything in these envelopes, but if I never open them, it only remains in the realm of possibility and can never become reality. It’s like Shrodingers Cat stuffed into an envelope! With each bit of folded white paper wrapped around other more valuable paper, there is the possibility that someone has written words of encouragement that will stick with me for years. Maybe a memory of a moment that will stick with them forever, maybe something that meant a lot to them.
Of course the opposite is possible as well. I know I have hurt people while I have worked here, I can not ignore that, and maybe one of the envelopes contains an extension of forgiveness, or a remembrance of a past hurt that I have not resolved. Maybe I have hurt someone unaware and I will be struck by guilt over something I was unaware of until now. Am I ready to confront a ghost from my past if that is what one of the envelopes holds? Am I prepared to fulfill the obligations that may be laid on me?
It is foolish to continue to speculate while I can answer the question outright by simply breaking the thin barrier of paper and glue. Unlike so many other areas of life, I can have answers, and I can have them now. No waiting is required, only a few seconds of pulling and tearing. Which I guess brings me to the real point.
I am afraid.
Not so much of the contents of the envelope, but rather, I am afraid of what the envelopes symbolize. They symbolize the end of one long chapter of my life (from a certain point of view it is literally half of my life) and the beginning of a new one filled with surprises and the unknown. What parts of the last chapter will play in a role in the next? Which people will continue to be a part of my story? Will this be the last chapter? (Always a possibility, however unlikely.) Am I ready to face what lies ahead?
For all of my complaints, I have a lot to be grateful for over the last 8-15 years, and I have had some experiences that I did not deserve, and could never earn. As this chapter closes, I know it, and in knowing it I am unafraid of it. The next is all clouded in doubt and debt and hard work and is difficult to see a beginning to, let alone an ending or additional chapters. I must remember that this now ending chapter started that way too.
So in a few moments, I will open the envelopes sitting on the desk next to me. The possibilities will disappear and become definite realities. I will no longer have to question what the envelopes contain, I will know. I will have to respond to them as is appropriate in each individual case, I will have to react to what they contain and make choices about next steps.
In a few short days, I will begin to tear open the envelope holding the next chapter of my life, and as I slowly pull piece after piece of priceless paper from that envelope, God will reveal what is next in my life, and I must trust that he will faithfully be there to preserve me, redeem me, fix me.
As I open my next envelope, I encourage you to look for unopened envelopes of your own. Be afraid, but don’t let that fear keep you from tearing open what God has for you. Be afraid, but with each tear in the outer paper, ask God to use the pages the envelope holds to strengthen his kingdom.
Open your envelopes…and I’ll open mine.