Thursday, November 15, 2018

Letter from Philemon to Paul

No, friend—
I have experienced so much joy
and such great encouragement from
The love that pours out of you
onto the page and into the world,
into the hearts of all the holy ones.

You refresh us, like a small stream of water on a long and dusty hike.

How can I receive Onesimus as anything other than
our mutual friend—
a mutual child, almost, of our love?

I am a harsh master and have sent many slaves away.
I do not know how to receive Onesimus as a changed man,
but, for your sake, I will try.

It is difficult, I know, to let go of people you have learned to love, so your kindness in sending Onesimus home is not lost on me.

If youth is the side of our hearts that grasps at what the world offers us, fearing to be alone, and age is the wisdom that rests in reality, then you are not so old as you have learned perfectly how to let go of what you love.

What virtue would it be for me to demand him from you? Or what virtue would it be for you to demand him from me? That would be an insult to our friendship, to this long love that we have shared, to the work that we have partnered in together, Paul. And yet, even though you would like to keep him, you sent him to me—your very self, your heart, as you say.

You say Onesimus will stay with me forever—but I will die, and one day he will be alone. All that will remain of us will be the memories we have left him. For his sake, yours, and my own, I will try to learn gentleness, so that the remainder of our days will be filled with the sweetness of love shared between equals. So that the memories he will live of us when we are dead are good.

In a poor effort of repayment for the great gift of your heart, I have no other way to share with you my love than to love Onesimus—your son—now mine.

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