I have a penchant for legal pads. They are everywhere in our apartment, stuffed between books on bookshelves, stacked in a dusty box in the closet, sprawled out on desks and coffee tables. In them, I write to-do lists, daily memorandum, names and phone numbers and email addresses, notes from class, and a hodge-podge of other scribbles, doodles and marginal illustrations. I’m not exactly sure what it is that draws me to the legal pad. Perhaps it is its clean yet warm, inviting color, or perhaps the faint blue lines stretching out, one after another, efficient and ready for the jetsam and flotsam of my mind at any given moment.
Right now, my legal pad is reminding me that, among other things, I am to make a schedule for my thesis work this fall, learn infant CPR, take out a life insurance policy, work on my written testimony, and purchase an ink cartridge. These reminders are comforting in their way–I do not now expect to neglect these things, and my life feels ordered and composed.
But for all their good, legal pads have a problem: they are inherently impermanent. Things written on them easily become lost in the tide of nonsense and miscellany. In the end, the pads fall apart, get misplaced, or the markings fade into the paleness of the page. In search of a note, I quickly become confused. Which of these seemingly identical pads is the one? Did I write the name on a clean sheet or in the margins of my notes on Wimsatt and Beardsley? For long-term record keeping (even into the next year), these pads will never do.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul speaks of a writing far less ephemeral than what I execute on my legal pads, a writing “not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, the heart” (v. 3). The Corinthians bore a faithful testimony to the grace of God in their lives, to the preeminence of Christ, and also to the ministry of the apostles. Their testimony was far more firmly established than the paper and ink which would fade and burn, and even (surprisingly to my very material mind) more so than the stone upon which was written the law handed to Moses by God. The substance that bears the writing here (the heart) is eternal and does not perish with the physical body.
But the writing here differs not only in the medium upon which the word is impressed, but also that One who writes the word. Paul says that the Corinthians were an “epistle of Christ,” or, rather, that they were authored by Christ. In a different sense of the word author, we recall the writer of Hebrews exhortation to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:1b-2). It is to Christ’s Kingship that we bear witness as epistles of Christ.
As I think about my busy life, and the multiple material means I use to keep abreast of the responsibilities that seem to crowd in from all sides, am I focused also on what is being written upon my own heart? Is Christ, “the author and finisher of [my] faith” writing His epistle upon my heart? Do I bear a firm testimony for my King, one that will not diminish or decay? What is certain is that my heart is being written upon, daily and unceasingly. And it is of great concern who is doing the writing. I trust that it is Christ my King, but I must look for the proof that this is true in the effect that this epistle has on those around me. It is sobering, indeed, to think that, unlike the legal pad I may toss away, this record is permanent.