No matter how angry you get at God, no matter how much you push Him away, the love letters keep coming.
Just as we packed away the Christmas decorations, hearts and roses appeared on the seasonal shelves of every store. Valentine’s Day is a cheery spot in the dead of winter.
No matter the reason, expressing our love for one another is a good thing. In fact, I would say it is a God thing. One of my favorite scriptures is one simple verse: “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 3:16). When we know we are loved, it’s easier to love. When we know we are loved unconditionally, our lives are changed. I have tried to assure my children that they were loved unconditionally by us and by God. I used this scripture to teach them that God loved us first; from the beginning of our lives, as we formed in the womb, we were loved. I taught them that every living thing, every sunrise and sunset, beautiful flowers, snow and rain, were all love letters from God. The love we show one another and the good lives we live are our special reply.
My son was three when my best friend’s mom was dying of cancer. With a wise look in his penetrating blue eyes, he gave me a message for her mom. “Tell her that God loved her first. As long as she remembers that, it’s all going to be okay.” His wisdom remains with me to this day, as do these eternal words from the first letter of John. He knew at a tender young age, that we can find eternal hope in the fact that we are unconditionally loved by God. Our response to this love is to love one another as God has loved us.
Human love is the most tangible way we can know God’s love for us. God’s love expressed in our love for one another is strong, viable and eternal. In the words of Psalm 139; “you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you praise that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; how wonderful are your works” (13-14).
When people ask me how many children I have, two answers come to my mind. I say that I have four, but my heart says eight. Over the 26 years of marriage I have lost four babies in the womb. My last pregnancy, I saw the baby developing on ultrasound, heard the heart beat and was amazed at how she developed in just 12 weeks. I was excited to welcome the newest member of our family with the wisdom I had gained through the years. But just as we were preparing to announce the news, the tell-tale signs of miscarriage were apparent and I immediately went on bed rest in hopes of saving the baby.
Sending my husband to a family wedding in Boston, I lay in bed and prayed for my unborn baby. Despite my efforts, the tiny sack surrounding my baby appeared on the tissue in my hand. I could even see the baby’s tiny fingers in the translucent sack. I held her in my hand as the tears rolled down my face and dropped like rain covering my tiny baby. I let a drop of holy water trickle down the tip of my finger, as I baptized her Baby Isabella. I wrapped her in tissue and placed her in a special ring box. I placed the box on the altar in my prayer corner and lit a candle, keeping vigil through the night. I felt alone at a wake. There were no processions, no music, just me alone with my grief. I called my husband and we wept together on the phone. I called my son at college and we too spoke for a long time. A few days later we buried our little one in the garden.
After the burial, I told God that He had crossed the line. I was done loving a God who could give us the hope of new life only to take it away. I thought about how I truly believed that God loved us first and knit us in our mother’s womb. Then why was the thread so weak in my womb? I decided I would end this relationship with God, divorcing this Divine life I had grown to know and appreciate. I packed up my bible and prayer journal and placed it in a drawer. I would not speak to God or call to Him or whisper thanks. I went to church for my children’s sake but the words of the scriptures and the melody of the songs stung the wound of bitter grief in my soul. I walked in silence in the early mornings, no longer conversing with God. I was alone with my grief, save the conversations with my husband and the sentiments of the few friends who knew of my loss.
Then slowly, the love letters came, in the beauty of the sunrise, the buds on the trees, in the warmth of the spring earth preparing for summer’s glow. As the flowers began to bloom in the garden where I buried my baby, I could not ignore God’s love pouring in my heart and flooding my mind like an intricate love letter, speaking to the depths of my soul. God loved me first and always.
I remember my first response to the overtures of God’s love letters. As anger, grief and disappointment poured out in sobs from the depths of my soul, love filled my heart. I could breathe again. I reconciled that love wins in the end and in the end there is always a new beginning. The next morning I returned to my walk, talking to God and acknowledging His love letters written to me in the spectacular sunrise and whispering to me in the warm gentle wind. I decided to spend the rest of my life writing my reply.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at email@example.com andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.