II. The Great Gift
Thoughts on ḥesed
In my childhood years, people told me many times, “God loves you.” I was hardly in a position to disagree, but mentally I often added, “and He has a long list of improvements He wants you to make.” I am afraid that sounded to me like the sort of love that naughty boys (and I certainly was one) experience at the hands of “loving” authorities. Naturally, I didn’t care for that.
I am not going to parse out which parts of the above were right and which were wrong. I am going to put it another way:
God likes you.
Did you know that? He actually likes you. He created you. He made you to be a reflection of Himself. You were made for His delight. He wants you to invite Him to be with you—anywhere, anytime, in your daily routine, at work, going to the grocery, cleaning the house, relaxing, eating, fussing over the kids—in short, throughout your actual life as it develops daily. He wants you to be His friend and walk with Him.
How can we be friends with God, the God Who created everything, Who thundered, “I am the LORD”, Who by His power sustains the universe? In some ways, friendship with God is very much like any other friendship: spending time together, telling our stories, sharing our thoughts, doing things together, finding out what pleases the other, what the other thinks, loves, wants, needs, and cares about. It goes deeper: friends share joys and griefs and each other’s part. And if human friendship can be great, imagine what friendship with God might be. Anyone who has ever experienced it will tell you, it is something you will really, really like.
And friends give each other gifts! It is a courtesy of Heaven, that God accepts the gifts we bring to Him, however small, insignificant, and full of imperfections, and is thereby pleased, as a father is pleased when presented with the first attempts of his child to draw a picture for him. God wants us to be encouraged and to keep trying. He loves that we try.
And God has given us all gifts galore: He gave us ourselves, our lives, families, joys, and most of all, the ability to get what we need and want, food, clothing, shelter, health, and safety. Along the way, of course, we have all picked up stuff we don’t need but want very much—security, self-esteem, independence, respect, status, reputation. We hold on to that stuff tightly, so that when God drops another gift to us, it is awkward for us to grab it.
The bigger the gift, the harder to catch and hold—prudence, temperance, courage, faith, charity, hope—while still hanging onto our stuff. And there is one gift He gives that is greater than all the others, that He wants to give us more than anything. It is so great that we have to hold our arms out wide—like Jesus on the Cross—to catch it and let all our unnecessary stuff fall to the ground—our self-worth, ambitions, pride, aims in life, expectations—all of it.
That gift, that biggest, grandest, most resplendent of gifts that God wants to give to each of us, is a heart that is like His, the heart with His Law inscribed on it—the heart of ḥesed—the heart of a true, loyal, steadfast friend.
Robert McAnally Adams is a retired mathematician and curator of The Christian Quotation of the Day. See cqod.com