I’m a woman in my thirties, and sometimes I feel invisible. When I go to the mall, with the baby perched in her stroller, diaper bag on my arm, and the preschooler clinging to my hand, and the kindergartner walking two steps in front of us while I loudly call for her to wait up please, no one is looking at me, I’m background. When I dash out to get groceries by myself (which is a great moment of the week), no one tries to flirt with me anymore. When I push the backs of swings back and forth at the playground, I’m passed by packs of girls, pairs of young women, and I feel frumpy in my yoga pants, even in my I’m-trying-today-jeans, but pretty sure that I can’t wear those cute little outfits anymore without looking like I’m trying too hard, without needing serious shapewear, just another woman in her 30s that wants to be a teenager again. I feel like I am just one of the crowd now, standing here on the edges of feminine middle-age and, really, who desires me?
Because what does “just another mum” have to offer? To a church that can be afraid of women and women’s bodies and women’s experiences? to government? to pastors and ministry leaders? to intellectuals? to world leaders? to academics? to writers? to our body-snarking celebrity and physical appearance obsessed culture? I can feel easily dismissed because of my gender, my choices, my appearance, my beliefs, my weight, my language, my nationality, my clothing, my age, even my faith.
The eyes of the world (and the Church, sometimes) just slide right over and past me, just another tired mother, clearly not much to offer, nothing to desire here.
In a radical act of hope, I’ve started attending a Bible study with a few other women at church. The “radical act of hope” part has more to do with my own baggage about Bible studies and groups of Christian women but I’ve been so disarmed, so welcomed, that I find myself sitting down to a meal of humble pie masquerading as a cuppa tea with real true women of God, I’m even spending a bit of my time every day in this “lady Bible study” and I’m being, I don’t know, challenged. (Who knew, right?) Anyway, we were talking recently about two of the words used in the Bible to define God’s love: chesed and ahab.
Most of us, when we think of God’s love, we think of the chesed – the love that is “firmly rooted in God’s character. It involves loyalty, steadfastness, and covenant commitment as well as kindness, tenderness and mercy.” Its the love that is covenant, the love that doesn’t care if you don’t love back, the love that is never-ending and constant, beyond the responses of the receiver of that love.
This is the love that is faithful.
And that love has mattered in my life, it’s been the earth I walk upon, when everything else has moved – and it has – that chesed type of love, by its very nature, faithful and unending, held me above water. Because it’s the love that is never ending, it’s been my foundation, my rock. It’s the love that remains faithful when I am unfaithful. God loves because God is love and God will always love and God’s response is to love, and lovelovelovelove is the air we breathe.
But after a while, its hard not to become settled in that because of its very nature. Well, then, of course, God loves me, he has to love me, he has no choice, that’s God’s job, right? And we all know that few of us enjoy our have-to-do stuff. By its very constancy, it’s easy to let our eyes glaze over the profound nature of loving-kindness, a love so deep that it’s the bedrock of it all.
And that is why I love another word for the Love of God, often also used in the Old Testament: ahab, the love that is “to desire, to breath after, to be inclined toward, to delight in.”
This is why, as I am getting older, as I am finding my worth in places other than the opinions or desires or attentions of others, I am drawn more and more to the truth that God loves with desire, that he breathes after me, that he is inclined towards me, that he, oh, my heart, delights in me.
It’s the difference between staying married because you don’t believe in divorce, and staying married because you’re wildly in love with each other, your inside jokes still make you laugh, and that man can kiss you weak, right to the grass under your feet.
Ahab is the love of relationship, of specifics, its the love of delight and details. The love of family and romance, and its intensity is deeply connected to the covenant faithfulness of chesed, and they are carrying me all the way home these days. If chesed is the rock and foundation, ahab is the breath and the perfume, the cool water. They’re both for real life.
The chesed love of God has been my lifelong rock, but now, I need to know God’s ahab love for me, too. I need to feel known. I need to know that the covenant and the desire are kissing each other, and I am loved, not because God has to love me, not because it’s required, not because its just his job or his beautiful character to love me, no, I am loved by choice and with desire and it feels like abundance.
(The study that sparked this is “Knowing God by Name” by Mary A. Kassian. The quotes above are from that book.)