When Love Doesn't Go Away


Love Silences The Voice Telling Us We Are Not Lovable

by Eric Elkin

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!
— Luke 5:8

It seemed like the entire state of Minnesota curled up in a blanket last week and watched a movie. The brutally cold temperatures of the record-setting polar vortex left few options for warm recreational activities. My wife and I were no different. We made popcorn and watched the movie, Roma, on Netflix.

SPOILER ALERT! If you have not watched the movie, you may want to stop reading now.

A scene at the end of the movie has remained with me ever since. The family in the film takes a vacation to a beachfront resort. Although calling it a vacation seems misleading, it was more of an escape. They were trying to flee from the pain and loss that dwelled within their home. 

Near the end of the vacation, two of the children beg to go swimming in the ocean one more time before returning home. After granting the children permission, the mother takes the youngest child back to their rental house. This leaves the maid, Cleo, in charge of supervising the swimmers. Clea cannot swim and demands the children remain close to the shore.

We watch the children move out into the water and then disappear. Cleo’s attention is split between the smaller child on the shore and the two swimmers in the ocean. Immediately, a deep sense of foreboding enters your mind. This vacation will not end well.

When Cleo can no longer see the children, she moves out into the deep water. The waves beat on her and make movement difficult. We are left wondering if she might drown along with the children. Then all of a sudden we see them. Two heads are bobbing up and down in the water. Faint screams for help pierce the roar of the waves. 

Cleo grabs the children and brings them safely back to shore. Once on the beach, the family, now joined by the mother, collapses into each other's arms. Their joy is mixed with fear and relief. The children profess their love for each other and for Cleo. 

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than [God].
— C.S. Lewis

In the midst of sharing, Cleo starts crying uncontrollably. Through her tears, she confesses she never wanted the baby she had just recently lost. In the blink of an eye, the whole scene takes a different turn.

The woman who risked her life to save someone else’s children did not want her own. Her confession, to me, was more than the unburdening of guilt. The placement of it made it seem like she was telling the family she was unworthy of their love and affection. Her words only made her more lovable. Or, should I say, more worthy of their compassion.

A strange line is stuck in the middle of the story about Jesus calling the disciples. Simon Peter says, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am sinful.” Like Cleo’s confession, the words seem misplaced. 

Why would Simon Peter want Jesus to go away? Jesus had just drifted out into the deep water to help them haul in a miraculous catch. Wouldn’t you think Simon Peter’s words would be, stay near me, instead of "go away"? It makes the reader wonder what burden is lurking within Simon Peter. 

Often the loudest voice in our lives is the one lurking within our own head. This voice tries to convince us we are unloveable. It tells us our sins are too great for mercy. An encounter with a dynamic expression of love from outside ourselves challenges this voice. The inner voice wants love to go away. When love doesn't go away is when we discover that inner voice has been lying to us all along. We are lovable.


Click to read Luke 5: 1-11

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever tried to hide from love? How successful were you?

  • How would you describe an encounter with love?

  • Why do people push away those who love them?

  • How does the experience of mercy change how you live?

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