God’s lovingkindness radically redefines us and shapes our interaction with the world.
By Michael Card
My all-time favorite movie is an adaptation of a book by one of my favorite writers, Oliver Sacks. It’s called Awakenings. It tells the true story of the author’s experience as a young experimental physician who pioneered a new use for the drug L-DOPA to awaken patients who had been catatonic for decades. One by one they awoke, and sadly one by one most of them eventually fell back into a coma. It is an exceedingly powerful book and film.
In one scene, Sacks (magnificently played by the late Robin Williams) is weeping as he is forced to watch his patient’s lapse back into oblivion. A nurse who has been his sole supporter in the hospital sits beside him as he weeps.
Sacks: “You told me I was a kind man. How kind is it to give life only to take it away again?”
Nurse: “It’s given and taken away from all of us.”
Sacks: “Why doesn’t that comfort me?”
Nurse: “Because you are a kind man.”
It would be remiss of me not to mention the profound cost associated with doing hesed (often translated lovingkindness). It is vital that we realize that embracing hesed, developing an instinct for doing it in the world, inevitably means an encounter with woundedness, ours and the world’s. Of course we are right to anticipate moments of profound joy and a deep sense of fulfillment. But to take lightly the cost that is involved would be a mistake. The backgrounds and the linguistics, the biblical passages, are all fascinating, but the doing of hesed is something else altogether. It is a costly enterprise, perhaps the most costly enterprise. It cost God everything.
That having been said, Micah 7:18 reminds us that God delights in doing hesed. And so should we. Hesed can shape our prayer life, our experience of worship and most especially the posture we take as we engage with the world around us.
Finally, as the love of God defines us, so hesed provides the full meaning of that love. His lovingkindness radically redefines us—from fallen to beloved, from outcasts to daughters and sons. Hesed resonates in us because it is a part of who we were created to become; it represents what we are being transformed, recreated, reborn, redeemed to be. We must become hasids, not simply those who go about doing good works but men and women who are completely dependent on the hesed of God, conquered by his kindness, reborn to a life of unconditional love.
Excerpted from Inexpressible by Michael Card. Copyright (c) 2018 by Michael J. Card. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. IVPress.com