~your name here~
If one were going to find a classic definition of the word ‘love’, one would have to consider (provided you spoke English) Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem asking, How do I love thee?
Nevertheless, one could also consider the Hebrew language, which remarkably dissects a word so the clearer definition is always given if one will just ‘go back to the original text.’ There we might find another definition of love.
Several years ago I heard Hebrew spoken day in and day out as an English teacher in an Orthodox Hebrew school when I taught a half-day class in First Grade. (I taught IN English, not Hebrew, hence the reference to being an English teacher.)
Many of the words I heard the children repeat as they studied their Hebrew I have now come to know firsthand while doing my own study through Psalm 119. Words like ‘torah’, ‘edot’, ‘piqqudim’, ‘mitswot’, ‘mishpatim.’ Such big words coming out of the mouths of 6 and 7 year olds always impressed me. Besides being fun to say, the meanings of each word can be rendered as: law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, rules, word.
In the 22 sections of this Psalm (one section for each letter of the Jewish alphabet), these various Hebrew words are interchangeable for God’s covenant relation with us via the pathway of boundaries.
God reveals His love for us by setting limits in our lives.
Rendered in English, each one of these words might make us think of them as regulations for living, dictating our actions. But on closer inspection, we might find they are in fact guidelines to freedom.
In The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, H. W. Smith says,
“That God cares enough about us to desire to regulate the details of our lives
is the strongest proof of love He could give….
We never care about the details of people’s lives unless we love them….
God’s law is another name for God’s love,
and the more minutely that law descends into the details of our lives,
the more sure we are made of the depth and reality of the love.”
God’s limitless love matches the limits of his boundaries for us–both are an expression of his care.
How He cares about the details of our lives–the route we take to the office, the time of day we stop for an espresso, where we shop for groceries and who we might speak to.
God even (especially) cares about those stolen moments away at the beach where we might be able to write our own names in the sand.
I’m looking forward to finding a beach soon, to write my own name in the sand. ((Can you say Spring Break?)) California here we come!
Photo by LM Johnson, used by permission