When was the last time you received a postcard? I was in New York several weeks ago, and it occurred to me to send a postcard to my family. So I jotted down a few lines about my trip, dropped it off at the front desk of my hotel, and ironically, I arrived at my house before the postcard did. Postcards are a bit of a throwback for the modern world we live in. We can text a photo; why would we send a postcard?
Several years ago, I ran across the story of Frank Warren and his idea of using postcards in a new way. He invited people to write down a secret they had been carrying all their lives on a postcard and mail it to a P.O. Box. The instructions stated that no one would sign their name, to ensure complete anonymity. Warren then published the anonymous secrets, scanning and posting them online. By doing so, something remarkable happened. People found that they weren’t alone. The secrets they thought separated them from connection became a point of connection. The pressure and burden that accompanied many secrets were lightened by simply giving voice to them. The mere invitation to write down a secret felt vulnerable, risky and yet liberating.
Since that time, Warren has published many books entitled PostSecret. In the Christian tradition, we know this practice as confession. We recognize that giving voice to what we carry is a step toward releasing it to God. Confession doesn’t mean instant absolution. It doesn’t mean that we immediately grant forgiveness. No, it is a first step toward transforming our pain. Richard Rohr says, “If we don’t transform our pain, we will certainly transmit our pain.” Read that again. Sit with it. How much of our world is us transmitting our pain? There is another way. I wonder what taking the first step might look like for you. Perhaps, a postcard might help.
With great hope,
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