I have worked for years as a babysitter, and even upgraded for a few years to nanny. And have always easily adapted with any kid I may be in the room with. People say I’m good with kids, really I just have the mind of a child, and so it’s easy for us to get along. I say all that to say that sometimes I come up the strangest analogies to express myself. And such was the case last year when I was talking with my nephews. We were sitting on my sister’s couch and Brogan, the then 4 year old who could be a professional cuddler, was in my lap. In the middle of giggles, snuggles, and all things silly I looked at him and said, “Do you know how much I love you?” Brogan just grinned. It was the kind of grin that started off mischievous and grew broader and broader until you knew he knew something was coming. “How much?” he asked me. I looked at him with the most serious face I could muster in the middle of a silly situation. “I love you as much as a jelly doughnut loves glaze.” Brogan burst into fits of laughing and I joined him, tickling him to make his giggle spill over. And that was how it started. Even though I said so much more, all Brogan got from that was I love him like a doughnut. And so now, every time I go over there I ask him and his brother, Flynn, the same question. “Do you know how much I love you??” And every time they get that silly grin on their face and say, “Like a doughnut.” It’s our thing. It’s a silly thing, but it’s our thing. And I love it. Silliness and all.
And that story makes the next story much better. Because last week I took those boys out for some quality time to the park and on our way back we made a stop at good ol’ Krispy Kreme. We went in and got our fill of something Krispy and something Kremy. And then we piled back into my car and headed home. The boys were wiped out. The sun mixed with the overload of sugar running through them forced them into a nap time stupor. All was silent in the back seat. Until about 10 minutes into our ride when Brogan asked me, “Button?” That’s their name for me. His older brother tried to say Bethany when he was little, but Button was all that came out, and I’ve been Aunt Button ever since.
“You know, I think you love us more than a doughnut.”
Already I was in love with this conversation. I couldn’t wait to hear what his little mind was concocting.
“You do? How much do I love you then?” I asked, looking into the rear view mirror at him.
“Um…I think… Um… Like six doughnuts! ”
I smiled. I kind of laughed. I gushed. I love that kid. His heart overwhelms mine. His heart is mine. He and his brother have me wrapped around their little fingers, and they don’t even know it. I will love them forever. My love for them runs high. It runs wide. It runs deep. It is unlike any other thing. It was so much more than 6 doughnuts, but all I could say in that moment was, “Six doughnuts, huh? Yep, I love you a whole lot. And six doughnuts worth is a whole lot.”
Love is not an easy concept for me to understand. I love freely and I love lots. I have a heart for many, but even with that, I do not understand love. Conditional love, of course. But conditional love is not love. It is an impostor walking among us. A fraud, carrying a name it never deserved. And yet, it is the love I can translate in my mind. Unconditional love. That is something different. The idea of love with no strings attached. A love that requires nothing in return. No favors, no services, no actions, no thing.
It is an untamed beast. For it does not favor the life of domesticity. It does not listen to the rules. It runs rampant. Giving freely as it runs. It does not listen to culture, or self, or hurts. It loves because it must. As if the hearts were tied together by an unbreakable string. And nothing can separate those two.
I think about this story with Brogan. How in his little mind my love was so much more. Six whole doughnuts more. And I think how much his mind mirrors mine when talking to the One I love most. I try to understand His love for me. I try to translate His love, unconditional and free, and sometimes I believe I get the vastness of His heart. But even when I try, I can’t seem to understand past six doughnuts. I want to know. I want to understand.
I want to be persuaded. Like Paul. Paul was persuaded. Convinced. Lured to it. He knew. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, things present… my sin, my circumstance, my health, my pain, my misunderstandings, my naivety, my ignorance, nor things to come, things to come… my sin, my circumstance, my health, my pain, my misunderstandings, my naivety, my ignorance, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nor any other Creature. Nor any other thing. No thing.
Nothing can separate us. Not even me. My sin, my circumstance, my health, my pain, my misunderstandings, my naivety, my ignorance. He loves me. And maybe in my mind He loves me six doughnuts much. But I can rest that even with my finite mind, there is an infinite love. An infinite love that loves me above and beyond all that I can imagine. To Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. He is able to love me above all that I think. He is able to love me beyond what I think. In my sin, my circumstance, my health, my pain, my misunderstandings, my naivety, my ignorance He loves me. Immeasurably more than I could ask or think. I think six doughnuts, and He thinks immeasurably more.
Brogan couldn’t get the count right. My love for him is so much more than those six doughnuts. But I suppose, so is my God’s love for me. I think six doughnuts and He thinks immeasurably more.
Romans 8:38, 39 | Ephesians 3:20