Love Is As Strong As Death

I’ve been knocked off my feet a bit by my father’s death. I don’t know what I was expecting to feel — or what I thought someone who lost a father at this age should feel — but this certainly wasn’t it. Whether 16 or 32, navigating life “fatherless” is as if somehow your equilibrium is off.

It’s not so much the moments of “oh, I wish I could call my dad about this” or “what would my dad say” that sting–instead it feels more like there is a crack in my foundation and I just can’t get settled. A disc has slipped  and I’m wondering if I’ll ever walk without a limp.

It’s hard to grieve with children around. In many ways, my kids are a wonderful relief. Eden has an uncanny ability of knowing just when to exert her physical humor. Like when Eden got dressed yesterday, putting both of her legs through one hole in her panties so she’s wearing her underwear like a belt and saying  “I’m ready Mommy!” as she brushed past me, bum hanging out, on her way to the sink. All to get a laugh. (We’ve taken to calling her “Goofy Hagerty” and she wears that title like a crown, reminding us almost hourly of her new name.)

And Caleb has this tender side which manifests most when “mommy is twying [crying].” He’s been calling Papa (my Dad) on his “phone” (any rectangular object he can find …well, yesterday it was a leaf) and reporting back that papa is “sleepin” and “wit Jesus” to his mommy who misses her own daddy.

While these little  interludes are sweet, they feel a little like a military shower when I’m needing a long bath.

So here I am again at this coffee shop, staring the fall colors sprinkled across the Blue Ridge, and feeling myself very muted. Wondering why the hard times in my life always seem to come during my favorite seasons.


Today I found solace in the most worn part of my bible. I’m not quite sure why the Lord led me there, but I cracked open Song of Songs and for some reason read it with new eyes today. I read about a woman,–skin taut and hands tired from work in the fields and a not-so-glamorous life–who likely spent her days dreaming about living on the outside as the woman she truly felt she was on the inside. She had an extraordinary virgin youth that was bound by the mundane. Or so she thought.

Surely she’d earn the respect of those who looked through her if she could only get beyond this unremarkable life of hers. It was then that she caught a glimpse of a man who she knew could turn her world around. She couldn’t get enough. She studied him – his eyes, his hair, his complexion. And she worshiped him, despite the fact that he was out of her league. He wasn’t her kind. This only fueled her desire.

How could she not desire him? He saw her in her most raw form and he loved her anyways. Somewhere beneath her sun-wrinkled skin, his eyes got lost in the beauty of her youth. Even more invigorating to her was that this seeming pillar of strength was susceptible to love. He was moved by her. Was it even possible to add to what already seemed so perfect, so sovereign?

How on earth could this touch my heart right now?

If you haven’t put it together yet, I don’t see this as just a love story about a lover and her beloved. This little 8 chapter book has me in tears, yet again, reminded of the love of the Father. My Father. My beloved.

At a time where I most identify (however slightly) with the plight of the orphan, the fatherless, I need to curl back up in the pages of truth.

He loves me.

And my weak (and at the moment very drained) love moves Him.

When we first brought the children home, Nate kept saying we needed to figure out a way to distinguish the word “love” as we so often use it in everyday language from what we were frequently telling the children: “I love you, Caleb.” At the same time that they were learning “Mommy loves me” they were learning that Mommy also loves tea and fresh flowers and Eden’s dress. We were constrained by our language.

I think we did the same thing that God spoke of through the author of Song of Songs. I would hold Caleb at night as he was learning the names for new features on his face and say “I love Caleb’s eyes,” “I love Caleb’s smile”, “I love Caleb’s shoulders.” I wanted him to know that I was learning him …and loving him. Every part of him. Oh, if you could see the way he lights up when I say “I love your eyes. Can Mommy kiss your eyes?”

They love to be delighted in. It brings them security.

And right now, I need to be delighted in. It brings me security.

All of a sudden, a world I felt so on top of since our adoption was complete  (ok, let’s be honest, only for a few brief moments of my life have I felt this way)  has felt so insecure. I’ve felt lost. Side-swiped by my dad’s death.

But the words of the Beloved to his bride are like a balm to me. It might appear (even in my own writing above) that the Beloved awakened in his lover what had been latent, but in actuality He made her remarkable. It was only a dream of hers to break the bonds of the ordinary and have the mark on her life be one not of pain, but of beauty. But His love, breathed into her very frame, made her come alive. Not again … but for the first time.

And in the same way that Caleb’s wide-eyed smile in responding to “I love your eyes” could make my heart flip, my weak glance back when I sense His affection and security moves God. I move God.

So today I’ve taken His words as a charge to me:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm;

For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave.

It’s flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame.

Many waters cannot quench love, nor can floods drown it.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Is it possible that God, as it seems I’ve drunk again from the chalice of bitter, could take me even deeper into the sweet just by His very glance?

He has today. And I’m leaving this dinky little coffee shop–albeit still sad and dehydrated from crying–changed.

If you haven’t at all (or even in a long time) crack open that little eight chapter book and ask Him to awaken love.