It’s sometime after four p.m. on a humid June afternoon midweek when our official honeymoon is over, and we drive up the same farm laneway that he’d first driven before and after the first lost-in-the-snow date four and a half years ago.
He parks the Taurus by the entrance to the basement apartment waiting for us in the house where I grew up and where his boss, my dad, lives with my mama and little sister and a few stray cats that linger round at the back door waiting for a way in.
He untwines his fingers slowly from mine in the heavy stillness.
I turn slowly from the window and all these passing scenes from that first night of chosenness, but I don’t turn to find his eyes. Somehow you have to put one foot in front of the other and keep choosing each other. I don’t know how to do this, or I don’t want to do this, or I keep forgetting how to do this.
“You — ready to begin?” I can feel his eagerness, his smile falling gently on me — and I want to turn and scream: “What in the world do you mean begin? You just went ahead and ended our honeymoon early. It feels like the end before we even begin!”
But all I say is —
“Yeah — yeah, sure, we can begin.” I try to sound like I mean it. Somehow there’s always got to be grace to begin again. And I open the car door and will one step in front of the other and trust God’s will always has a way. I head down to the basement apartment and the rest of our lives.
I’m kneeling in a stack of wedding presents when he tells me that he thinks he’d better check on the mama sows out in the barn, see if my dad needs any farmwork finished up today. And I nod bravely, this brand-new, fledgling wife who can’t yet see how her fine man’s just trying to provide in good and faithful ways — who sees now, at the root, our greatest fear is always that we will be left abandoned and unloved. Maybe we could always live unafraid if we knew we’d never be unchosen.
When he closes the door, I can hear him bound up the stairs and out to the barn — and I curl my knees up under my chin, wrap my arms around shins, and hold myself while the dam of everything tender and uncertain breaks.
- You don’t have to be afraid to let your heart break like a wave.
You can curl forward, you can fracture into a thousand shimmering bits, you can shatter and scatter and fear nothing because you can break into light, catch all the light, you can return to whence you came from, you can fall into Him and not be afraid in all this ocean of grace. Your every heartbreak can be a wave breaking into light. This is a truth that gently embraces a whole world of heart- ache too: Make an idol out of any relationship and you become a dysfunctional relationship of pain. Whatever rock and tender place the bruised soul finds itself between, it’s written there right into the face of the rock we’re facing. There is no such thing as salvation by romance, or by achievement, or by dream life, or by any good behavior, or by self or anyone else.
In the midst of all these witnessing wedding presents, it comes, out of nowhere, this old lullaby to gather me up and mother me close, and I gently rock on the basement floor: “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”
As if there is something that someone can give us to take away all the pain along the way. As if we are chosen, we will get a pain-free way of our choosing.
“And if that diamond ring turns brass, Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.”
Someone’s gonna, someone shoulda, someone better... come and make this all right.
And Someone does, but not in any way I may expect or ever understand, and the mystery of our stories can taste both like pain and grace. The soul still knows from whence its help comes, the heart beats to the drum of the psalmist, and the soul rocks on the waves of the ancient lullabies:
Make your face shine on your servant; / save me in your steadfast [hesed-attachment] love. — Psalm 31:16 ESV
Even when I don’t feel it, I am Father-held, His everlasting arms around all my needs, and Someone’s not gonna save me by being a genie in a bottle who’s gonna make all my dreams come true, not gonna save me by wish fulfillment or carrying me off into some sunset — Someone’s gonna save me by tenderly attaching His heart to mine like a fusing. Salvation by hesed.*
But I have trusted in your steadfast [hesed-love]; / my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. — Psalm 13:5 ESV
Can this save a life? Not in some infomercial way, but in a real marrow-of-your-bones, lining-of-your-lungs, I-can-actually-breathe way?
If God chooses to attach Himself to your soul, what can anyone say, or do, to shame you, to detach you from Love Himself? If God has covenanted lovingkindness to you, what crisis or catastrophe can ever break that kind of chosenness?
'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing [hesed-love] for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you. — Isaiah 54:10
This is actual comfort that traces your bruises and wounds with the slowest, tender assurance that you are going to be more than all right. You can feel this presence like a certain nurturing that girds your every breath, every step, every heartbeat. The assurance that you seek, the chosenness that you want, the grace that you crave, the hope that you need — it’s there in His eyes tenderly and forever holding yours. Hesed is who God is.
The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in [hesed] and faithfulness, maintaining [hesed] to thousands. — Exodus 34:6-7
The Lord, abounding in hesed-attachment love, who is more than holy, more than awesome, more than good, the Lord who is unwaveringly kind chooses to bind Himself to me, one nail at a time on the cross, and I am saved and safe in real time.
Because all trauma is about detachment — detachment and loss of connection from our people, our bodies, our souls, our Maker* —
what saves and heals us is attachment — attachment to our people, our bodies, our souls, our God.
Help me, Lord my God; / save me according to your [hesed-attachment] unfailing love. — Psalm 109:26
Hush, hurting soul, don’t fear your tears. You can hug your knees and feel yourself contained and safe within the arms of God and trust:
Chosenness doesn’t mean you get wish fulfillment, but that you get hesed-attachment. Because wish fulfillment doesn’t ultimately fulfill like hesed-attachment fills us with communion that begins to heal trauma. Because your papa’s never gonna stop singing it over you in ways that resonate like an enfolding in all the empty places:
Behold, [you’re the one] whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. — Isaiah 42:1 NASB
[You’re] the one I chose,
and I couldn’t be more pleased with [you]. — Isaiah 42:1 MSG
You are chosen not because of any of your choices but because the very God chooses you. And no choice you or anyone else makes has the power to make you unchosen. No matter how rejected you feel, you are chosen for hesed-attachment because no matter how it may seem, what you want most deeply is to be deeply wanted as a person, valued and needed, seen and safe and known. This is the way of hesed; this is the way our Father heals our trauma. He will make a way through to what we need the most.
Turn, Lord, and deliver me; / save me because of Your unfailing [hesed-attachment] love. — Psalm 6:4
That brave newlywed holding her knees on the floor doesn’t know that one day she’ll sit over a toilet and weep over the blood of a miscarried baby she’d never hold, and she’ll find herself still held. One day, decades from that moment, that newlywed will read a text from someone she loves that sucker-punches her nauseous, and her whole world will shatter like a rain of glass. She’ll find herself in a story she never wanted and doesn’t know how to live through. She can feel numb and nothing and that doesn’t mean that she isn’t still being held close enough that His heart attached to hers is what is keeping hers beating.
One day, after too many dark days and nights of the soul, she’ll fight the temptation to follow through on a plan to end it all. And still underneath will be the actual everlasting arms of God, whose hesed-attachment goes on without end, making a way right through to forever: For His hesed-lovingkindness “is great toward us” (Psalm 117:2 NKJV). His “lovingkindness is better than life” (Psalm 63:3 NKJV).
His hesed-lovingkindness is better than every kind of dream, or hope — or even life itself.
But this day is not those days, not yet. On this day that tender newlywed is gathered and soothed by His presence that she experiences as the mothering comfort of a lullaby.* And when she is gathered and pulled together enough, she doesn’t dare brush away the tears, but touches them slowly with her fingertips, like you can absorb your grief and it can become you, like it can make you more becoming.
Lament can be tears that water new life, if you let it come.
God knows that we don’t need a way to something as much as we need a way to be healed — and healing comes through the closeness of hesed-attachment because He knows how close we need Him to actually experience His healing touch.
I will be glad and rejoice in Your [hesed-attachment] love,
for You saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul. — Psalm 31:7
I lay my head down on the corner of an unwrapped wedding present, damp cheek sticking to the sheen of the paper.
There’s no way I could have expected him to take that route home from a honeymoon cut short, there’s no way I could have expected getting lost en route on our first date, there’s no way, no way, no way.
And the voice of the Spirit, hesed-joined to the very chambers of the heart, beats sure: Hineni. Here I am. Here I am. All the universe echoing: I AM. I AM. I AM.
I am here for you. You are chosen. Choose Me.
Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. — John 6:37-38 MSG
There’s a romance for the ages, just waiting for a turn.
My fingers find the edge of a piece of tape on the corner of the box, and I turn back the paper, unwrapping the next present slow, with no expectation of what comes next. Expect nothing but hesed — because this turns out to be everything.
Behind every kind act of God is the hesed-lovingkindness of God.
Thank the miracle-working God, / His [hesed-attachment] love never quits. — Psalm 136:4 MSG
When I hear the Farmer come back in from the barn, I’m still unwrapping presents, unwrapping hope. “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.”5
I turn — and find his eyes.
He’s grinning, and I love him. I really love him.
“Well, what’d we get?”
I reach out my hand for his, wanting him close.
“I have no idea. But I am sure it’s all... — truly good and kind.”
* Dr. James Wilder writes of Dallas Willard, “Dallas passed on, but not before urging the ongoing discussion of salvation as hesed. His understanding was that salvation should produce disciples who spontaneously exhibit the character of Jesus [but] too often [don’t]. Dallas saw in attachment love a possible remedy.” James Wilder, Renovated: God, Dallas Willard, and the Church That Transforms (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2020), 8.
* Dr. Peter Levine writes that “trauma is about a loss of connection — to ourselves, to our bodies, to our families, to others, and the world around us.” Peter A. Levine, Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2008), 9.
* Isaiah 66:13:“As a mother comforts her child, /so I will comfort you”; and also Psalm 131:2: “But I have calmed and quieted myself, / I am like a weaned child with its mother; / like a weaned child I am content.”
Excerpted with permission from WayMaker by Ann Voskamp, copyright Ann Morton Voskamp.
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"Behind every kind act of God is the hesed-lovingkindness of God." Even in our trauma, difficulties, relationship growing pains, and transitions, God is loving us with His whole heart! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you about God's kindness! ~ Devotionals Daily