I learned the Hebrew word “hesed” this spring. I am not sure I’ll ever get over the beauty of it – I hope not. It inspired this piece I originally wrote for Deeper Story.

 

She backed herself into the corner, wedged between the pillows, reading lamp silhouetting her hair against her knees. She swiped away the tears blurring the pattern of stitches on her bedspread, then buried her face in it.

“I am a terrible person. Broken and unfixable. I… I said I loved you, but then… I ran off.”

woman crying in the dark

Her pain poured out in jerking wrenching sobs. “I betrayed you. I’m so sorry.”

He waited until she quieted.

“I know.” His voice was low, quiet.

Her voice had poured out all wet and soaked into the bed, so the words crept out in a whisper. “But I gave myself to you. I promised. And then I broke it. I gave myself away so many times, and now it’s destroyed.”

“It isn’t totally destroyed.”

She studied him for signs of leaving, of anger and bitterness, of desire for revenge or to kick her out. She found none.

“How can you be so calm?”

His smile was slight and sad. “I knew you would leave.”

She gasped.

He reached for her hands. “When you met me, I knew. When you promised yourself to me and sealed your promise in the water, I knew you wouldn’t keep it. When you eat and drink to remind yourself of our covenant, I know that you can’t keep it.”

Self-hatred boiled up into her mouth, gagging her as she realized he spoke the Truth. She tried to drag her eyes away, but he held them fast.

“Beloved, I know how broken and weak and easily-won your heart is. But I loved you then and I love you now. I made an unbreakable covenant vow to you, my precious girl. I promised you my hesed*.”

“Your hesed?”

He smiled. “Hesed is loyal unfailing love, no matter what you do, knowing that you are broken and weak and will be unfaithful. But my hesed never fails. It is yours forever.”

She couldn’t speak.

Finally, she stammered, “You knew that I would break our covenant? And you made it with me anyway? You aren’t kicking me out? I… I… I don’t know what to do with this.”

“I love you. Ask me to forgive you. My hesed guarantees a way back.”

A tiny leaf of hope sprouted in her heart.

“Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. Please forgive me.”

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. I John 1:9

 

*Hesed is the Hebrew word most often translated “mercy,” “lovingkindness,” “kindness,” or “love.” It is a very important word in the Old Testament, but it is a difficult word to translate into English because we lack a single English word that adequately communicates its full meaning. When used of God, hesed speaks of His loyal, unfailing love for His people flowing out of their covenant relationship. Even though we may prove unfaithful to this covenant, His covenant love never ends. Praise be to God.