Today, this extravagant Gift:
Gently, he traces my cheekbone with the edge of his thumb, just lightly. It is a simple, wordless gesture, so powerfully warm as to thaw the edges of the day.
“I know,” I say, “I have a nasty bump there,” thinking immediately of the blemish on my cheek, red and tender and persistantly unkind, glaring ugly right there in the most obvious of places. Every time I pass a mirror, I twist my mouth sideways to appraise the rise of it and shake my head, wishing it away. I slather on that cream that’s supposed to melt away whatever’s festering. Where did that thing come from, anyway?! Somehow disgrace (The term itself should be a clue, shouldn’t it?) always arrives in the most unforgiving way. It’s a silly thing—ridiculous, really now—but somehow in the moment I’m convinced that Love sees the blemish instead of me.
“Oh,” he says, lifting his thumb, looking steadily at me now, and in his eyes I see years of knowing me. “I hadn’t even noticed that. I was just touching your face.” And He smiles at me, the kind of smile that reaches beyond surfaces and time and friviolity. All these years, and sometimes Love still surprises me.
And that’s when I feel God’s touch, sketching out the angles of my soul. Love covers over a multitude of sins, He says. Love keeps no record of wrongs. As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your transgressions. And yet, in some dark shadowy part of my heart, there’s still a part of me that believes the terrible lie that when God looks at me He takes inventory of my flaws. “What?” I want to say, the way my daughters do when they feel me looking at them, as though there must be a more sinister reason Love gazes carefully. I can’t quite put my finger on the edges of that crooked scar, that puffed-up temptation. It doesn’t makes sense that I can love others without constant critique and yet still struggle to believe the same kind of love exists for me. But then, there’s a slithering enemy hell-bent on overturning the scandalous nature of grace. The truth is that Love never was a commodity; it can’t be earned, bartered, or miserly hoarded. Real Love is always an unmerited gift.
I look at Kevin and I can see that he is surprised that this is my first thought, that some temporary blot on my cheek is the thing I imagine as his contemplation, but he falls silent. His thumb wanders along my jaw, unhindered and light, and I realize that just as quickly as I mentioned the blemish, my husband has forgotten it. All these years, and sometimes Love still surprises me.