…I mean, don’t worry. I’m not. No judgment, AT ALL, towards those of you who have gone that route, but I’m not a tattoo kinda girl. And somewhere around 39 1/2 years old I accepted that. See, that year, a friend wanted me to get a ginkgo leaf (because I love them so) tattooed on my ankle for my 40th birthday. I thought about. Pored over possible designs. Scoped out possible locations. But in the end…no dice. I just couldn’t do it.
But if I were…if I were to do it, I think it would not be a ginkgo leaf. Or a fleur-de-lis (which I also adore). Or even my daughter’s initials (who I adore the most). It would simply be this: Romans 8:38-39.
Maybe even just 8:38-39 (except probably that would like some sort of odd ID number and cause a major stir!).
More than any other verse in the Bible that my whole existence has been founded upon, Romans 8:38-39 brings me strength. Gives me hope. Helps me put one front in front of the other. Reminds me I am loved, and, therefore, need to set about loving others. Tells me, in no uncertain terms that I am not alone. Not ever.
On our way home from church today, I asked my Curly Girl, “Hey kiddo, what’d you talk about in class today?” She’s in a class at church for 5th-8th graders–the Tweens of the church, they are, but they officially call themselves the Jesus Peeps. Which I think is hysterical and brilliant.
Anyway, I asked. And she said, “Well…we read about King David.”
After a pause, knowing that reading about King David could pretty much run the gamut, I asked, “Cool–what about him?”
“Well, we read about King David and Bathsheba.”
I paused. Swallowed. And then managed, “And…what did you think about King David and Bathsheba?” (If you’re fuzzy here, readers, King David and Bathsheba basically equals a soap opera of epic and disastrous proportions.)
“Well, Mommy, I read it aloud for the class and it is a REALLY weird and UNCOMFORTABLE story!”
(go ahead…laugh…I did!)
I pulled myself together, choked back my laughter and said, “Yep. It is.”
And then we talked. About how King David did some really awful, terrible things. And how he was really quite selfish and impulsive and impatient. But also about how he did some really good and important things. And somehow, despite the awful things, God was able to use King David for good. Somehow…past all the horrible choices, God was able to use him to further God’s work.
This is no small thing. In fact, it is maybe everything.
She noted that there were consequences for King David. I said she was right. “Always, honey, there are consequences. But no consequence can take away God’s love for you. In fact, nothing, no matter what, can take away God’s love for you. And that was true for King David, too.”
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NRSV)
She nodded. Said yes, she believed that. And I told her that I did, too.
I stake my life on it.
In any painful moment of my life, Romans 8:38-39 has been present. Whether read by a loved voice or shared from a pulpit or lectern, or read to myself at night in desperate prayer, or pulled up from memory as a promise that the sun would indeed rise the next day…whatever the instance, whatever the situation, when my heart has been shattered, Romans 8:38-39 has helped me put it back together again, even if not quite the same as it was before.
I have run out words for how concerned and afraid I am in these days we are living. I approach news and social media both with hesitation these days, literally fearful of what fresh hell might have emerged while I was away from the steady stream of information and opinion and clickbait.
And despite the goodness in my life, I know that it can all be gone in a heartbeat. Just like that. And many days, I wonder when the next shoe will drop and I’ll once again be plunged into heartache. Because this is what happens when you have known pain or grief or anger or loss. And we have all, in one way or another, known these things–and if not…well…we will.
But we have also been promised that such things are not to be faced alone. We have been promised by the very One who created us and gave us love that not a single second of our lives is to be lived without the Love that gave us life in the first place holding us close, pulling us near, surrounding us with mercy.
Nothing can separate us….
Look, I don’t know how it happens. And I know–believe me I know–that there are days when all feels lost and like nothing good will ever happen again and where we are is where we’ll always be. There are days…when not much seems to matter at all.
So y’all excuse me if I’ve gotten all church-y here…but I simply know no other way to traverse this life except to insist that 1) we are loved and 2) we are not alone and 3) there is hope.
This does not get us off the hook in speaking up when we need do. In helping those who need help. In living lives that help justice flourish and peace maybe become a possibility. No…not at all.
But it does fuel us for the journey. Help us forward when things are awful. At least…it does for me.
Because what I believe, out of my own experience, is that to each and all of us God has said, “I’ll keep you.” And nothing will ever be able to separate us from that. And given all the days when I have felt so very unworthy of such keeping, felt so far away from such love…well, I’ll take it. Because nothing can separate us…I am convinced.
And more than anything I want for my daughter, I want her to be convinced, too.