March 9, 2018

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Jeremiah 31:3

Our national parks apparently are being loved to death.

We toss around that expression “loved to death” a lot, meaning that we have such a strong affection for something or someone that we will love it until we die.

The phrase has darker nuances as well. There’s a shop in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district of that name that says it “caters to the odd at heart,” carrying such items as Victorian-themed “anthropomorphic taxidermy dioramas and jewelry.” As you might imagine, the store has been described as “creepy.” The television program 48 Hours had a similarly-titled episode about a teen romance that resulted in murder.

In the case of the parks, being loved to death invokes both connotations: so many tourists are flocking to them that not only are they creating an overcrowding problem, but environmentalists are worried about their impact on the natural elements.

2017 statistics show that around 331 million people visited all 417 units, or sites, within the National Park system (you can see the individual location rankings here; it might surprise you that #1 is a road). Zion National Park, #16 with 4.5 million sightseers, is mulling over a reservation system just to enter the park, and other of the 59 units designated as national parks are either considering it or taking a wait-and-see approach.

Do you know you also are loved to death, in the very best way possible? The God of the universe’s love for you and me is so great that it extends from eternity past to eternity future. The word lovingkindness in the Bible is the Hebrew word hesed, meaning a loyal, steadfast or faithful love, with the idea of belonging together. In other words, we were created for a relationship with God. What’s broken that bond is our desire to do what we think is best, as exemplified by Adam and Eve, who had a perfect rapport with their Creator before they decided they knew better than Him. That bent to self-will is called sin, and we’ve been wrestling with it ever since.

But God’s hesed love has been calling us back for just as long, culminating in sending His Son to make final atonement for our waywardness: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

There’s no reservation needed to be loved to death by God. Crowding’s not a problem; there’s always room for one more. Just come.


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