This morning I read Zephaniah (one of those books near the middle with no fingerprints or underlines) and was grabbed by one part of a verse in the 3rd chapter:
3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
I looked up the Hebrew word for "quiet" in a lexicon and a theological dictionary and you know what I found? It means, "quiet." I was hoping for some hidden, obscure facet in this gem of a word but, as best as I can tell, it means what it says. Quiet. "He will quiet you by his love."
When I was a kid, if I did something wrong or got hurt doing something I shouldn't have been doing, I'd try to blubber out an explanation to my mom between deep gasps for breath. I notice my daughter does the same thing, like when she got stung by a wasp a couple of weeks ago. She wanted to tell me what she was doing as she sobbed and all I wanted to do was hold her close to me and love her (even though my wife was the one she ran to - my impulse was to hold her, rub her back, and say "Shhhh."). I didn't need an explanation. I needed to be her daddy.
In Luke 15, a son leaves home as badly as one could. He alienates everyone and wastes what his daddy gave him on trying to outdo Solomon in Ecclesiastes. He realizes his terrible, terrible choice and decides to go home. He prepares his speech but before he can get it all out his daddy starts throwing a homecoming party. I think of Rembrandt's painting and hear the father saying, "Shhhh," quieting the young man with his love.
I pray that we all experience this kind of loving forgiveness and that instead of preparing our explanations, excuses, or whatever it is occupying our minds that the love of God would quiet you and embrace you like you've never experienced before.