In elementary schools it’s the source of many giggles and whispers. For the middle-schooler, it’s a queasy, uneasy feeling when that special someone walks in the room. It’s that longing in the pit of your stomach when life can’t.possibly.go.on because your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t with you 24 hours a day. It’s the beat your heart skips when you realize you’ve found ‘the one’.
It’s the warm, settled satisfaction when you know you’re in the presence of a true friend – and the feeling you’ve just been punched in the stomach when you find out they might not be so true after all. It’s that sinking sensation when someone you care for has been taken away from you and that gut-wrenching desire to help when you witness someone in pain. And it’s the unexplainable, suddenly-willing-to-give-your-own-life kind of affection that overtakes you at the birth of your first child.
Affection is affection because these feelings we have affect us. Something inside of us changes – or at least gets messed with when love takes hold. Sometimes it calms us, sometimes it makes us brave, and sometimes it just makes us do crazy things.
In our modern world, as evidenced by our emojis and “like” symbols, we look at the heart as the source of this emotion. Especially at this time of year, we are reminded that those feelings that draw us to others in love come from the inside – from the organ whose rhythm sustains our very life.
But if the ancient world had Twitter, their “like” symbol would not have been displayed all over cards and used as a shape for candy, because for them the seat of the emotions was a lot closer to their actual seat. Yes, the “bowels” were looked at as the place where those deepest human emotions originated.
My favorite (❤) reference to this in the Bible is found in Luke 15 where Jesus tells the story of a father whose son has insulted and then abandoned him. When the son hits rock bottom and comes to his senses, he decides to return, hoping his father will have an ounce of mercy and take him on as a hired worker.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
This father’s affection affected him. Not only did he refuse to give up hope as he waited and watched for his son, but when he saw him, he did something a father in that time would have humiliated himself to do – he ran to his rebellious son and greeted him as he would have had he never sinned. But it wasn’t just the father’s actions that were affected.
The Greek word for the “compassion” he was “filled with” is splagchnizomai, which means “to be moved as to one’s bowels”*. The word itself is what we might refer to today as onomatopoeia – a word that sounds like what it is. As you say splagchnizomai (three times fast!), you can almost feel the deep, guttural movement of your inner parts as, like the father in the story, your deepest emotions just spew out of you.
Jesus told this story to give us a picture of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. It’s no cute little flutter of emotion, no passing appearance- or action-dependent partiality – His affection toward us reaches to the very core of who He is. And Jesus, as God in the flesh, showed the depth of this compassion when He willingly hung on a cross – allowing His side to be pierced and the blood from the deepest parts of his human body to be poured out to bring us back to Himself.
As much as feeling affection affects us, there’s just as much affecting that happens when we are the recipients of affection. Something about us changes when we know we are loved.
For example, when our oldest daughter has one of those moments where she knows without a doubt that she is loved, she quite literally bounces off the walls – or at least tries to climb them. Our middle daughter grins from ear to ear and begins laughing obnoxiously. And our youngest snuggles in, closes her eyes and starts talking baby talk (also fairly obnoxious at times, but she gets away with it because she is, after all, the baby!).
For me, I talk… and talk and talk and talk (if you don’t believe me, ask my extraordinarily compassionate – and patient – husband). But in those moments when I’m fully aware of God’s love – that the splagchnizomai of God applies to me and the very deepest parts of who I am – I shut up.
Which is why Zephaniah 3:17 has become one of my favorite verses:
“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.”
How does God’s affection affect you?
Maybe you’ve never believed that it’s true or that it could possibly apply to you. Maybe you thought you were disqualified because you ran away from it. Maybe it calms you, makes you brave, or makes you do crazy things this world would call foolish. Maybe it makes you bounce of the walls or laugh obnoxiously. Maybe it makes you close your eyes and long deep inside to just be with Him. Maybe it makes your heart skip a beat because you know you’ve found the One.
His love is real – so let Him throw His arms around you and kiss you – and allow it to change you today!