I've been meaning to write this post for some time now. Some of my friends have complained, albeit jokingly (I think), about my proclivity toward writing long e-mails. There are actually several good reasons why I do this, and some of these reasons may lie in my weaknesses as much as my strengths. Nevertheless, if you have received lengthy e-mails from me, take heart! That's a good thing, mostly...let me explain.
I write long e-mails because...
1. I attempt to be thoughtful. I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to send me an e-mail message that may seem lengthy to others. To me, it shows that they poured themselves into their words. Especially when I've written something personal or express a need for help, it means a lot to me when someone writes back with a long, thoughtful response. It shows that they spent their time communicating with me and imparting wisdom, knowledge, encouragement, or even laughter, all for my sake. I value words, both what others say to me and what they say about me. In return, I try to encourage others. If I've sent you a nice, long e-mail acknowledging the impact that you have made on me or expressing thanks for the ways that you have ministered to me, take that long e-mail as a compliment. That's how I mean it to be taken.
2. I often think through things as I type. Especially when I write about Scripture or theology, my e-mails can become quite lengthy. Often, this is because I'm thinking through matters as I'm typing. I get caught up in the experience, and minutes later I have www.biblegateway.com open to find references along with various commentaries by my side. When my thoughts get flowing, I let them, and some of my friends have received those theological think-throughs. If you have been sent one of those e-mails, feel free to roll your eyes, but also be thankful that the Lord has used you to help me think more deeply and intimately about God and His Word. For being my guinea pig, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
3. I am more careful with my words when I write. This is another major reason that I tend to write long e-mails. I tend to think more about the words that I use. I will often revise an e-mail several times for fear of being harsh, corny, inconsiderate, or glib. I can be all that and more in real-life situations, as I often am, but I have a little more control of that in e-mail. I guess that's another reason that grows out of my own weakness, but it's a reason nonetheless.
4. I think of long e-mails as the written equivalent of sitting on the front porch swing with relatives, sipping sweet tea and shooting the breeze to my heart's content. Those porch-time sittings were some of the happiest times of my teenage years. We would sit and just share stories and laughs. My e-mails have the tendency to be a bit familiar with the people that I know. In fact, I wonder at times if I share too many details about my life or what I'm thinking. Often, after sending one, I'll wonder if the person receiving really cares to know me. However, I think that my tendency to chat and openly share things about myself is part of my southern raising (I'm referring here to being raised in the deep south, the great state of Georgia, not the city of a Louisville where I currently live, which I would not classify as a southern city). I had a grandfather who could talk to anyone (and normally would). He was a lot more out-going than I am, except when it comes to e-mails. When I feel comfortable around others, I do get very chatty. The same is true with my e-mails. If you've received a long e-mail, it probably means that I trust you, and that should be a compliment. I hope it seems that way!
So, those are the main reasons that I send out lengthy e-mails at times. If you occasionally receive them from me, consider it a good thing. I won't be offended if you don't write back promptly or choose not to respond. The words are for you, regardless.
Know that if you send me an encouraging e-mail (or card, letter, etc.), I greatly appreciate it! In fact, when people send me cards of encouragement, I put them in a box. A pastor of mine once encouraged me to create a "Monday morning file." At times when I'm discouraged, when I think that no one cares for me, or when I'm wondering if I'm impacting anyone at all for the sake of the Kingdom of our Christ, I take out that box. I find encouraging notes from members of previous churches, thank you cards signed by various members of a church I served, or even a card with a couple of sentences from a retired lady telling me that she prays regularly for me. I cherish those, possibly more than the people who send them realize, and possibly more than I can adequately express with the spoken word. If you have sent me a card, a letter, or an e-mail just to encourage me through the years, I publicly say "Thanks!"
So, today, let me just encourage you today to write a family member, a friend, your pastor, a colleague, a member of your church, or someone who is going through a difficult time. Expect no thanks, and do it all for the glory of God. They may never acknowledge what your words meant to them or the impact that they had. However, do everything as unto the Lord, for He is the One who can use your words to do far more abundantly above all that you can ask or think.
[While I have had the idea for this post for some time, the last paragraph of application (sorry to use a preacher term) was spurred on by my friend Angela's recent blog entry, "Spreading the Gift of Words." I encourage you to read it!]