I wish you could meet my Hebrew professor. Toni Craven changed my life nearly 30 years ago by teaching me the depth and beauty of the Hebrew language. From her I learned that words often have more than one meaning. Hesed is a prime example. It looks like this in Hebrew: חםד. Its meaning is multi-faceted and deep. Depending on its use, it can mean “mercy, kindness, goodness, favor, and love.”
It can also mean all of those things together. My professor would translate it as “God’s loving kindness.” It forgives, it heals, and it sustains. It encompasses us like a warm blanket, holding us when we feel our most alone.
I’ve been talking with a young friend who is struggling to believe that anyone loves him, even God. He doesn’t feel worthy of attention and believes that there will always be someone who deserves love more than him.
What would you say to my young friend?
None of us are loved because we deserve it, I want to say. If “deserving” is part of the equation, it isn’t love we’re talking about. Love is what is extended to us on our most unlovable days, when we should have stayed in bed instead of stomping through the world. Love comes and sits beside us and says, “Even today—especially today—you are loved. I’m not going anywhere. You are mine.”
I hope you’re thinking about someone in your life who has loved you with God’s loving kindness. Who has been a form of hesed to you?
God, we don’t deserve your love. And yet you pour your hesed upon us like a cleansing shower, forgiving us, healing us, and sustaining us through life’s most difficult times. We give thanks, indeed. Amen.