(The following excerpt is from The God of All Comfort)
I’m not giving away Steve’s trench coat.
I want to see it when I open the closet. I want to run my hand through its soft furry lining. If I have to run up to our mailbox in the rain, it’s that trench coat I reach for – a sheltering shield covering me from head to foot, protecting me from the wet, yet flooding my heart with memories:
- The day I met him – a cold February day on the campus of Northwestern University. He caught up with me after class and introduced himself. I was so excited that this man whom I’d secretly admired was approaching me that I was trembling. Steve thought I was shaking from the cold wind off of Lake Michigan, and there, right in front of Deering Library, with hundreds of students passing by, he gallantly took off his trench coat and put it over my shoulders. My knees nearly buckled.
- Our first date, just two days later – shy with each other while we were walking to the movie. Suddenly the sky opened up, pouring down buckets and buckets of water. Steve opened his coat and tucked me in, covering me, as we ran laughing into the theatre.
- Running into him by surprise downtown. We’d been married twenty-five years, but my heart still did flip flops to see him. I saw him first: taking long strides, looking strikingly handsome and masculine. His hands were in the pockets of that trench coat, his head down – concentrating, thinking hard about something. I stood still, right in the middle of his path, smiling, anticipating his reaction. Startled to be blocked, he stopped and looked up. A sudden smile of delight, then, that laugh I loved. He spread his arms, which opened his coat like sheltering wings, inviting me in. There we were, on Central Avenue, enveloped together, more in love than newlyweds.
But of course this isn’t about trench-coats, but about something far, far deeper.
It’s a mystery, Paul says in Ephesians, but marriage is a foreshadowing of a much more lasting relationship: Christ and His Bride.
When a husband tenderly protects his wife, he becomes a reflection of the ultimate Bridegroom. The quaint Old Testament phrase for this husbandly protection is “covering.” He is to “cover” his wife by bringing her under “his wing, or his skirt, or his garment.” It is personal and tender: like a mother bird sheltering her young with her wing; like a father wrapping his shivering little girl in a blanket; and like Steve opening his trenchcoat and shielding me from the rain. In medieval Jewish wedding ceremonies, the groom would take his prayer shawl and cover his bride as a symbol of his willingness to also tenderly cover her with protection, provision, and love.
If we look deeply at the love stories that move our hearts, we will inevitably glimpse Jesus.
Saturday, September 22 (3 years after Steve’s death)
Thank You Lord for a lovely day. Lee and her friend Susan came and we spent the day watching the waves, laughing, and lingering over a dinner at sunset. Then we got in our pajamas, popped popcorn, and watched “Miss Potter,” the story of Beatrix Potter, the creator of “Peter Rabbit.”
Oh. I wept copiously. How Norman believed in Beatrix when no one else did, and helped her to fly. Of course I saw Steve, who even wanted me to keep speaking when he was sick. But I also saw You, Lord. You love the ones Your hands have made and want them to fly.
When Norman “taught her how to dance” I wept again, for it was so much bigger than dancing literally. Even in this time of sorrow, You are, indeed, teaching me to dance. You want me to put my hand in Yours and let the music fill my heart.
Their tender parting scene at the train station. He was wearing a trench-coat (of course!) and he kisses her for the first time. Parting scenes always move me. My parting for the last time with my father, my mother – and of course, with Steve. “Such sweet sorrow,” as Shakespeare said.
And when Norman dies young, of course, that did me in. Yet Beatrix carried on, and life still had meaning, because she knew “he was right behind her.” I know Steve is “right behind me,” but even more, You are there.
Thank You, Lord – for this picture of Your love.
1. What is your favorite romantic movie and why? Can you see a parable in it (a reflection of Christ?)
2. Do you have any comments on the above?
In the romances of the Old Testament in Ruth, Song of Songs, and Hosea, this word “kanaph”) appears when the groom or groom-to-be covers his bride. Martin French did this painting of the “Kinsman-Redeemer” for Forever in Love to portray Hosea covering Gomer when she was ashamed and being sold on the auction block.
The passage in Hosea 3 is a bit cryptic and challenging, but basically what has happened is that Gomer has run after her other lovers and they are selling her on the auction block, and Hosea buys her back. He is her “Redeemer” for a Redeemer is One who pays a price to rescue another.
1. Read Hosea 3:1-2
A. What does God tell Hosea to do and what comparison does He make?
B. What message does God want you to hear in this story concerning how He will respond to us when we fail?
C. What does 1 Peter 1:18-19 teach?
D. One of the hardest things to believe, and our doubts are fanned by the enemy, is that God is not punishing us for our failures. That has already been paid for. If we have regrets, and that often happens in grief, what truth must we speak to our souls?
2. Another “kinsman-redeemer” is Boaz in the book of Ruth. The Hebrew word “kanaph” appears here and may be translated corner of garment, wing, or garment. It is another challenging passage, but so full of tenderness. Read Ruth 3:6-8 and find what Ruth asks Boaz to do. What is it?
3. Watch the beginning of the last video where I talk about “The Covering” to the women in prison. Click here and watch for about five minutes, until I get to the “Court Date.” Write down what you learn: Link
Our own dear Joyce and another silent blogger each sent me this wonderful picture of Psalm 91:4 where the word “kanaph” is translated “wings.”
4. Read Psalm 91:1-4 and write down the promises. Comment on this word picture as well and what it means to you.
5. Some have interpreted these promises to mean no trouble will come to the believer. How does the close of the psalm, Psalm 91:14-16 clarify this?
6. The concept can also be found in the phrase “hiding place” which is in Psalm 32:6-7. Meditate on this and find the phrases that comfort you and calm you.
7. One of my favorite songs of Sara Groves is based on the above passage and is called Hiding Place. It’s actually fairly easy to learn and to sing. You can listen to it on U-Tube by clicking here: target=”_blank”>Link
I’d like you to meditate on four phrases in her song and think about how you could apply them to your life:
A. Early when the day is new, before the stirring
B. I will come and talk to you and confess the ways I’m broken (Psalm 32:3)
C. And recall the words You’ve spoken
D. And to try to comprehend the love you have for me (Psalm 32:6-7)
8. How has God shown His love to you recently? List at least three ways.
Part II. Listen to Midday Connection and Comment Here: Updated Direct Link
Part III.Listen to Keller
He has so many good messages on The Bridegroom — here are two, but they are not free. Choose one of these if possible, listen, and comment: Link
Extra Credit Fun: Watch Miss Potter and find spiritual parallels and list them here. (And if you rent it, be sure you hear the extra song by Kate Medula on the disc. Oh!) Or one of the Pride and Prejudice movies — for Austin’s lines are amazing. What spiritual parallels do you see?
PART IV (Challenge and Optional) Ezekiel 16:1-22 is a similar portrait to Hosea in a nutshell.
9. Read it carefully — find the tenderness, the covering, and how she responded to the Lord. What do you see here?
OH — SUSAN REMEMBERED REMBRANDT’S THE PRODIGAL — SO I ADDED IT LATE — NOUWEN SAYS, “SEE HOW THE FATHER’S CLOAK ALMOST LOOKS LIKE WINGS?”
10. What is your take-a-way from this whole week?