The husbands and wives who gave their all to the founding of the fledgling republic called the United States of America paid a dear price for their service— especially those among the leaders of the first Continental Congress. John Adams was one who endured long months of separation from his wife, Abigail, and their children. Massachusetts was their home, but the demands of statehood kept him in Philadelphia for lengthy periods. Then there was the almost two-year separation when he was in France as a diplomat.
Remember—there were no telephones, telegraphs, or email to keep them in contact with one another. They relied solely on written correspondence to keep their love alive. Even then, writing materials were expensive and mail delivery was slow and unreliable. Letters were looked for daily and treasured when they arrived.
But, oh, how the John and Abigail Adams could write! We would call them both intellectuals today. Their letters were filled with erudite and eloquent protestations of their love and their desire to be reunited, as in this portion of a letter from John to Abigail while he was in Philadelphia:
Your sentiments of the duties we owe to our country are such as become the best of women and the best of men. Among all the disappointments and perplexities which have fallen my share in life, nothing has contributed so much to support my mind as the choice blessings of a wife . . . .
I want to take a walk with you in the garden—to go over to the common, the plain, the meadow. I want to take Charles in one hand and Tom in the other, and walk with you, Nabby on your right hand and John on my left, to view the corn fields, the orchards . . . .
Alas, poor imagination! How faintly and imperfectly do you supply the want of [the] original and reality!
And Abigail wrote these words to John while he was in Europe:
My dearest friend,
How much is comprised in that short sentence? How fondly can I call you mine, bound by every tie which consecrates the most inviolable friendship, yet separated by a cruel destiny, I feel the pangs of absence sometimes too sensibly for my own repose. . . .
Is it not natural to suppose that as our dependence is greater, our attachment is stronger? I find in my own breast a sympathetic power always operating upon the near approach of letters from my dearest friend. I cannot determine the exact distance when this secret charm begins to operate. The time sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. The busy sylphs are ever at my ear, no sooner does Morpheus close my eyes, than “my whole soul, unbounded flies to thee.”
A century-and-a-half later, another prominent couple, British this time, began a lifelong habit of exchanging love letters in the days of their courtship. Winston and Clementine Churchill’s daughter collected 1,700 letters, notes, and telegrams exchanged between her parents between 1908 and 1964. Like the Adams, the Churchills were each other’s intellectual and expressive equals, unafraid to declare their love in written missives, often more than once in a day.
From the days of their engagement come these two samples, first from Winston to Clementine:
My dearest & most truly beloved—
There are no words to convey to you the feelings of love & joy by which my being is possessed. May God who has given to me so much more than I ever knew how to ask keep you safe & sound.
Your loving Winston
And this from Clementine to Winston:
Thinking about you has been the only pleasant thing today. . . . Dearest, I was so happy driving with you last night to the station. I long to see you again—Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 3 long days. Goodbye my darling, I feel there is no room for anyone but you in my heart—you fill every corner.
Love letters are the ties that bind the hearts of lovers together; the bridge that spans the chasm that time and distance create. The lengthy separations that government service created in both the Adams’ and Churchills’ marriages is not unlike the separation between Jesus Christ and His followers. Our separation from our Savior is made all the more difficult by the fact that we have never seen Him face-to-face. We are like a bride who married her lover from a distance and yearns to be united with Him for the first time.
The apostle Peter speaks of the testing of our faith as we await the arrival of one whom “having not seen you love” (1 Peter 1:8). But we are not without communication from Him. We have a book full of love letters to read, if only we will— letters that tell of His great love for us and what our reunion with Him will be like when He returns for all eternity.
How long would you allow a letter from your long-separated beloved to sit unopened? Not for a second! Yet how long do we allow the Bible, which is full of God’s declarations of love to us, to sit unopened and unread? Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride. His words of love will keep our heart entwined with His if we will read and cherish them daily.
He has written of the place He is preparing for us:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3)
He has reminded us of His power to care for us until He returns:
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
We are reminded of His faithfulness; how it is proof of His love for us:
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
He has made himself available to us, even in His physical absence:
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)
He has written of His shepherd’s heart toward us:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
He has reminded us not to grow attached to this world in His absence:
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
He has promised sweet rest if we will trust in Him:
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
He reminds us that our failures do no damage to our relationship with Him:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
He reminds us that even our separation is part of His plan and purpose:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
He teaches us how to replace fear with peace and protection:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
He writes about the evidences of His love that are all around us:
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)
And He reminds us where to turn when in danger:
The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
Don’t fail to read the love letters—these and many, many more—from the One with whom you plan to spend eternity!
Adams’ letters from David McCullough, John Adams (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), 107, 257.
Churchill letters from Mary Soames, ed., Winston and Clementine—The Personal Letters of the Churchills (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), 16-17.