love covers over
Twinkle lights cast warm light over their cheeks, their tawny skin, their sun-gold hair. The summer breeze lifts long, errant strands—mermaid-streaked deep maroon-purple, steel blue. The girls slide their thumbs over their foreheads, corraling without thinking. As the day fades along the edges of the dinner hour and the five of us gather on the porch to share a meal, I sit with a napkin spread across my thighs, treasuring up the sight of them 1-2-3 in a row, sunset-glow on their faces. And I think just, Beautiful; just, Mine.
It’s not that I don’t notice that the one has been running outside, that the thick, humid heat has wrapped a damp, clammy arm around her shoulders; nor that I have missed the sticky glaze still gummy on the other daughter’s lip. And yes, I did hear my son entoning the prayer in a bit of a garbled hurry. But I have time yet to grow them in needed spaces, just a season—and right now, I will take delight in the sight of them together.
“Why does Adam always eat so quickly?” Riley says, watching her brother scrupulously as he lifts a steaming spoon to his lips.
“Hey, now. Nobody likes all their mistakes pointed out.” Zoe flashes her sister a chastening glare and then considers her plate. The first bite requires careful selection.
And there goes my reverie.
Ignoring her sister, Riley continues, lifting a finger in the air towards her brother, as if to punctuate the observation. She directs her comments to me, flicking her gaze toward me as she speaks. “I don’t know why he always eats so quickly,” she says. She has heard us in teachable moments of the past, coaching Adam to count bites. “We need to teach him not to do that.”
This is a sibling affliction; I will not attribute it to anything else, but it is perhaps exaggerated by Riley’s strict personal preference for concrete, well-followed rules. In her own offbeat way, she feels some responsibility for helping him; she feels that reminding him of the rules (and thus also his trangressions) is an act of love. She is by nature acutely aware of Adam’s infractions against the moral code, as though his disregard for black-and-white obedience is an afront to the autistic community. But God has lately had much to say to me about how my own criticisms of others have very little to do with love, and much more to do with selfishness and even uglier condescension.
My silence—oh LORD, do we have to do this now?–seems only to encourage Riley to continue. “Adam needs to eat more slowly. I’m glad I don’t eat that fast.”
Thank you that I am not like other men.
It’s a nasty thing we siblings do, lifting our critical fingers toward one another, propelled by some instinct, some ancient Cain complex, to show ourselves worthy of greater parental favor, as though real Love ever worked that way. In my daughter I see only a reflection of my own human nature, and in truth, she lives far more innocently than I.
In fact, God has most recently reminded me of a passage of scripture in which a son, finding his flood-safe father, Noah–the same Noah scripture describes as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time”–passed out naked in a wine-drunken heap, feels compelled to play the accuser and point out this indignity to his two older brothers. And then an incredible thing happens. Love and respect compel the two older brothers to stretch a blanket across their broad shoulders and walk into the tent backwards so that they can’t even see their father’s nakedness. They cover their dad with that blanket as wide and kind and honoring as their love, and then they walk away (Genesis 9: 20-27). Love covers over.
It’s this story I begin to unfold for my children, slowly and quietly as the night comes on more quickly, thinking of my own recent conversations with God, how He shows me the gulf between who I am and who I need to be to reflect Him.
“There’s a passage,” I tell them, catching glints of the twinkle lights in their eyes–three entirely different shades blue—that says, ‘Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8),’ and every time I read that scripture I think of Shem and Japheth with that blanket stretched across their backs. And these and so many others God has lately used to remind me that He loves with a love that desperately desires to disarm the accuser and remove the shame of the sinful. To be like Him—and that’s what I really, really want—I have to put down the stones and stretch a blanket across my back. Love covers over; it doesn’t point out.”
I’m thinking by now I have lost them, as the things God has lately taught me pour out of me like a flood, but their eyes are like dark pools, absorbing.
“So maybe, we could together decide that whenever we feel like pointing out faults in others, we’ll look away from those and find a way to honor them instead. We can call it the love covers over challenge.” I say it to them, my three, but all the while I’m thinking this will grow me even more, that just maybe God will use the opportunity to move me one step closer to loving His way.