Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?...
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure than neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come,
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.
My nephew, Gabe, is in his first year of college, and my kids and I wanted to send him a package to let him know that we are thinking about him. (Actually, once my kids saw what was in the package, they wanted to keep the goods and just send Gabe a card.)
It made me think of the time my dad sent me a package when I was a freshman, which is what prompted a Saturday night blog post.
You have to understand my dad. He's a pretty understated kind of guy. Very quiet, not incredibly outgoing. Not one for heart-to-hearts or long conversations. I found it hard to really get to know him. Our relationship has always been easy but unemotional--maybe even a little distant, given his tendency to be uninvolved as my sister and I were growing up. I knew what to expect, although I always secretly wished for a doting and involved dad, the kind who would ask you about your first kiss but at the same time warn you against "those kind of boys", if only because he once was "that kind of boy". But sometimes one has to accept that the dad she secretly wishes for and the dad she has are two different guys, and that the dad she has might be giving all he knows how to give.
You can imagine my excitement when I got my very own package from none other than the dad I so desperately wanted to closer to.
My heart soared. He had thought to send me a package! Wait...he had thought to send me a package? Who cares! He had thought to send me a package!
I studied his perfectly squared-off, neat handwriting before I ripped it open, thinking through the endless possibilities of what would be inside.
A note. Definitely a note.
My favorite snack. And some peanut butter.
I ripped that sucker open.
And I pulled out a plastic computer cover.
No snack. No peanut butter.
And definitely no note.
He had thought to send me a package, ensuring that the computer I was using at school would be well taken care of, and of course, dust-free.
How do you put a voice to the words that are swarming and swirling around, frantic to be known, daring to be heard, while you close your eyes to hold back the tears you are sure are silly?
I was heartbroken over a plastic computer cover, and I knew it was a silly, childish thing to be upset over, so I picked up the pieces of my heart and shoved them, dislocated and tangled, back in my chest. Covered those pieces with a fake smile and vowed I would never expect anything from my dad ever again.
I knew it wasn't my first heartbreak, and it wouldn't be my last. I dealt with it the only way I knew how--burying my disappointment and trying to forget about it.
Uncovering those memories as an adult brings a different perspective than the one I had as a college freshman (aka a baby), and I have a better understanding of where my dad may have been coming from. He was stuck in a job he hated. He didn't know how he was going to pay for his daughter's private college tuition. He had an eleven year old at home, wanting the same attention her sister was begging for. And he had just found out his wife of 30+ years was sick with cancer.
You know, I really do wish my dad had included a note in his package that day, and to this day I wish we were closer than we are. And sometimes the frailty of my own parenting becomes painfully obvious, when I ignore a request because the email I'm typing takes precedence, or I snap at them because I'm irritable, and I understand that just like me, my dad made some mistakes.
A broken heart left to its own devices becomes walled-off, protective, and defensive, safeguarding against hurts and disappointment. But in the same way it safeguards against hurt, it also becomes guarded against love, and eventually joy and happiness.
I truly believe that no matter how long a heart has been broken, no matter how long disappointment and regret have been taking root, no matter how long it has been walled-off, that the love of Christ is the healing balm that will uncover the brokenness and put it back together again. Whole. Complete.
...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have the power, together with all the Lord's holy people,
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep
is the love of Christ,
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.