Every day I open my mailbox I am overwhelmed with a huge pile of mail that is stuffed so tight into the box that I wonder if I will need pliers to pull it out. To efficiently handle this never-ending accumulation, I have developed a sorting system with three categories: junk mail, essential mail, and surprise mail. Junk mail includes credit card promotions, marketing gimmicks, and sales flyers. Essential mail consists of bills, personal letters, and ministry correspondence. Surprise mail is unexpected correspondence that contains a donation to our ministry or encouragement from a conference participant or pastor. After dividing the mail, I process each category. Junk mail is discarded into a trash can while I’m still at the post office. The essential and surprise mail is taken back to my office for further investigation.
After forty years of marriage, I have come to realize that communication between husband and wife can be like going to the mailbox and receiving junk mail, essential mail, and surprise mail. The happiness of the marriage relationship depends upon both how we handle the mail (messages) we receive from our spouse and the type of mail we send to them.
Through the prompting of God, Nehemiah embarked upon the great task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Two men named Sanballat and Tobiah, however, were disturbed by his actions. They ridiculed and scoffed at Nehemiah and when the walls were erected, Sanballat sent his servant to deliver some junk mail (Nehemiah 6:4–5). The letter falsely accused Nehemiah of rebuilding the walls so he would gain enough support to be crowned king (v. 6). Nehemiah declared the accusations to be false, stating that they were drummed up in their imagination (v. 8). He recognized the letter as junk mail, discarded it, and stayed on task (v. 9)!
Marriage partners sometimes deliver junk mail to each other. For example, heated communication containing the words “never” or “always” normally signals an exaggerated accusation. (“You always forget … You never think about me.”) Each spouse must avoid sending junk messages to their mate that distract or discourage them from building a God glorifying relationship. And when junk mail comes our way, we—like Nehemiah—must continue in our tasks while responding with wisdom and grace.
While junk mail is distracting communication that is, disheartening, dishonest, and destructive, promoting isolation rather than intimacy; essential mail is vital to the function and health of a relationship.
After gaining approval to travel to Judah, Nehemiah asked the king to give him some essential mail to take with him on his journey. One letter was addressed to the governors beyond the river, requesting permission and protection for safe passage to his destination (Nehemiah 2:7). A second letter was addressed to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest (v. 8). It requested permission to retrieve timber from the forest to help in rebuilding the walls and constructing a home when Nehemiah arrived in Judah. Both of these letters were essential to the success of his quest to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. One provided protection while traveling, the other, provision for completing the task.
Every day in marriage, we have the opportunity to send essential mail to our spouse. This correspondence communicates our willingness and even eagerness to provide, protect, and nourish the relationship through daily plans and schedules. Nehemiah successfully completed his task through specifically communicating his needs to the king, and his expectations of how the king could help him. A husband and wife must take time to share their daily schedules and expectations so that the essential needs of the marriage are met through planned, coordinated teamwork. This could include such things as who will pick up the kids, buy groceries, or pay particular bills. Even though this essential mail can be boring and burdensome at times, taking time to correspond is essential to maintaining harmony in the home. What essential mail (communication) do you need to send to your spouse today?
Approximately 15 years prior to the rebuilding of the walls, Ezra—a contemporary of Nehemiah—receives an exciting letter from King Artaxerxes. In this letter, Ezra is given the authority to take priests and valuable gifts from Persia to the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:15–16). He is also instructed to restore and teach the law of God to the people (v. 25). Elated by the letter, Ezra responds by blessing the Lord, who had put these desires in the king’s heart (v. 27).
Even though the essential mail described is necessary for coordinating daily tasks and responsibilities, marriage can become dull and listless without surprise mail! Even as Ezra received a letter from the king that thrilled his soul, marriage partners need to receive messages that ignite romantic sparks! Ezra noted that God had put this letter in the king’s heart. Similarly, spouses need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He prompts them to send surprise mail to each other. It can be in the form of spoken words, written notes, special deeds, and even gifts. The message should be designed to express affection, appreciation, acceptance, and affirmation.
When I am traveling alone, Debbie will often hide a note or an eatable goodie inside my suitcase to surprise and encourage me. I might buy her a small gift to show that I was thinking of her while I was away. Debbie frequently tells me how much she respects and admires me. I make it a point to express to her that she is beautiful and I love her, and will always be here for her. These expressions aren’t the result of some ulterior motive. Rather, they are genuine letters from the heart, enclosed in the envelope of God’s love, sealed with the gratitude of one who realizes a spouse is a gift from above. Surprise your mate with an unexpected love message today.