I Love You This Much

We used to have a bedtime ritual when my children were small. "I don't love you this much," I'd say, holding my hands a few inches apart, "and I don't love you this much [hands a foot apart now], or this much, or this much" (the gap growing wider until it was as far as my arms could go). "I love you this much:"

Occasionally, they would test it. We were washing the car when one of my children got into the trunk, put all its contents on the ground, and sprayed them thoroughly: books, blankets, my tennis racquet, and a new dress were all hosed and sudsed up beyond recognition. My daughter, who was about four at the time, could see from my face that she had sinned, and the wages of sin is death. She looked up with big brown eyes and threw her arms out to the side as far as she could: "I love you this much."

How could I punish that? "All right, honey. Let's just put this stuff in the garage."

I could forgive her, but of course someone's got to pay for the damage. She has incurred debt for books and clothes and racquet, and if I cleaned out her whole piggy bank it wouldn't make a dent in what she owes. Forgiving is never just a matter of words, there is a cost attached. Someone has to pay the debt.

This is what happened at the cross, the Bible says. In some way we will never fully understand, an unpayable debt was paid. And we can start over. We must.

Ortberg, John. Love Beyond Reason. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, p. 71.

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