Love: February Theme and Prayer Bead Devotion

Our theme for the month is Love.

Okay, I know that’s not very original, given that it’s February and the month with Valentine’s Day. There’s already a lot of talk about romantic love and love for your family and friends. But the love I want us to consider is even bigger than that. In fact, the love I want to talk about is the very source of Love.

The Hebrew word 'hesed'
The Hebrew word ‘hesed’

A few years ago I learned about the Hebrew word hesed. It’s used in the Bible to describe God’s love for us and is generally translated as loving-kindness. Curious, I wanted to know more. My research revealed that scholars generally don’t all agree on the translation of this little word. While everyone agrees that it’s used to describe God’s love, some think it means mercy, while others say loyalty, or grace, or goodness . . . you get the picture. I took this to mean that hesed is the word that tries to capture all the attributes of God’s love – a love that is full, gorgeous, spacious, deep, merciful, forgiving, accepting, fabulous, life-giving, creative, abundant, never-ending, etc., etc., etc., etc. Again, you get the idea. Whatever wonderful word you can use to describe God’s love, it seems to be captured in hesed.

My hesed tattoo
My hesed tattoo

I have come to love this word a lot. So much so that I had it tattooed on my wrist – a daily reminder of God’s gorgeous love for me.

Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to follow suit. But I do want to encourage you to consider what hesed means for you.

According to the Great Commandment found in both Mark 12:28-31 and Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus reminds us we are called to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (As ourselves, people! We need to love ourselves, too. Don’t just gloss over that point. Own it!) This tells us we were created to love by the very source of love – the God of Hesed. But like any commandment, it’s not always easy to practice. We struggle with our limitations in love – those feelings and fears and prejudices and assumptions and doubts and judgements that keep us from truly loving our neighbors, ourselves, and even God.

That’s where I think hesed can be helpful. Hesed reminds us we were created by, in, and for love – a love that has no boundaries, no limits, and no conditions. And while we don’t yet have the capacity to love as God loves, we can at the very least try to love as God loves: to offer it freely, compassionately, gladly, repeatedly, gracefully, abundantly. To offer it to ourselves even when we don’t like ourselves. To offer it to others even when we’re not feeling it, or don’t like them, or don’t agree with them, or don’t understand them. To offer it to God even when we don’t know how or where to begin, or when we feel like God has wronged us or is a million light years away. Because all we can do is try. The more we try, the easier it will get, and the more love will come naturally to us . . . as was intended.

So this month, think about love. Think about hesed, and the God who created you to love and be loved: incredibly, wonderfully, deliberately, splendiferously, giddily, deeply, satisfyingly, nourishingly, totally, exceptionally, perfectly. Because that’s all that love is. And so much more.

Prayer Bead Devotion 

Cross: Loving God,

Invitatory Bead: whose Perfect Love was embodied

Resurrection Bead: by your Son, Jesus Christ:

First Cruciform Bead: I praise you for your love!

Week Beads, Set 1: Use each bead to consider all the attributes of God’s love (such as perfect, abundant, peaceful, lavish, etc.) and lift them up in praise.

Second Cruciform Bead: I thank you for creating me in love and for love.

Week Beads, Set 2: Use each bead to consider how God created you out of love and to be loved, and offer your gratitude.

Third Cruciform Bead: Help me to recognize, receive, and revel in your love for me.

Week Beads, Set 3: Use each bead to experience God’s hesed for you; to understand that no matter who you are or what you’ve done, God loves you deeply and you are worthy of that love.

Fourth Cruciform Bead: Help me to live out your hesed – loving you, myself, and others.

Week Beads, Set 4: Use each bead to consider how you may live out God’s love for you, expressing it to God, yourself, and others.

Resurrection Bead: In the name of Jesus Christ,

Invitatory Bead: who loves us perfectly.

Cross: Amen.

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Meditation (to be repeated with each bead, or with each breath): I am deeply loved.

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