This week, school started in earnest for the Comstock family that meant that last week, we had Back to School Night at Thomas’s new school. Due to the blessing of School Choice, Thomas’s new school is also Sidney’s new school. This makes for very streamlined weekday mornings. Sidney and Thomas go in one direction, while I take Esther in another direction – easy as pie.

The only flaw in this beautifully constructed and oiled machine is Back to School Night. It’s a work night for Sidney. She has to receive her own new class, meet parents, and answer questions. This leaves me with both children navigating a teeming elementary school that I have no previous familiarity with. On top of that, it was extremely loud. On top of that, Esther had been at day care all day, was irrationally tired, refused to be put down, and periodically began to scream for no discernable reason. On top of that the building was hot. And, on top of that, there was free ice cream that was perhaps the powder keg that this situation needed the least. I’m wandering this school lugging a 20-pound screaming 18-month-old, sweating profusely, and wearing what must have been a look of wide-eyed panic. This might be why just about every adult in that building either utterly ignored us or cast judgmental glances at my ice cream covered 18-month-old having a full screaming fit on the multipurpose room floor. There’s a line in the Great Gatsby about how large parties are great because it’s easy to find privacy. I was in a large party. I felt alone. It wasn’t that great though. Before we started to head to our car, it began to pour with rain.

In the midst of our suffering and social rejection, one person broke through. The Cub Scout recruitment table was right next to the ice cream. The leader behind the table noticed that I couldn’t both hold Esther and open Thomas’s ice cream, so he offered to open it for Thomas. He seemed utterly unaware that we were the least approachable people in Poe Elementary, gave us his spiel, and offered to help in a couple of other ways. I was in Boy Scouts well into my early 20s running service camps and recruitment for the Order of the Arrow. He asked me about my experience in the program, and we talked shop until Esther’s renewed screams made conversation impossible.

In the grand scheme of things, he didn’t do very much. He opened an ice cream for a child. He attempted to recruit a father, who turned out to hold just about every award the Sam Houston Area Council has to give. He took down our contact information. However, in that maelstrom of people pointedly ignoring us, his simple and unconditional kindness gave me a respite – a moment of calm between the waves.

In Luke 14, Jesus seems to be handing out social advice. Don’t assume you belong at the head of the table. Don’t make parties about your own advancement. Invite people who need care not who help you look good. He’s talking about more than parties. He’s talking about himself and his Kingdom. Hanging out with humans on earth is Christ being with people who need care rather than thinking about himself. He’s the living word of God. He had a pretty good gig in Heaven. Instead of staying there in comfort, Jesus came down to earth, suffered a normal human life and a particularly horrific death, walked with numbskull disciples, dealt with the Pharisees, and ate with sinners. None of this is the deserving company for the Lord of Heaven and Earth, yet down he came – for love of us.

The scale of this love boggles the mind and defies description. God, the all-powerful creator of the universe, invites us to God’s party, sent Christ to die for our sakes, and continues with us each day in the presence of the Holy Spirit. That’s unfathomable love – someone so great caring so deeply for a few billion tiny beings who can’t even seem to properly return the favor. It’s a love so powerful that it cuts across time and space. It defies logic and physics. It is the universe’s truly most potent force. It means that there will always be someone who loves you because God’s love for you cannot be stop – not by any force known or unknown, not even by death itself.

Life can be a maelstrom. It can feel like a never ending journey through Back to School Night with a screaming toddler, judgmental adults, and a pouring sky with no umbrella in sight. We live in an increasingly isolated world, where more and more people feel caught in the storm alone. Yet, in all of these storms, there’s the ultimate celestial edition of that Boy Scout leader offering unconditional comfort. No matter what the storm is. God is there. It doesn’t matter if the storm is of your own making or just something that happened. God is there. There is always love in the universe because the universe exists in part, so that God can love you. Paul, perhaps, put it best in Romans 8:37-39.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:31-38 NRSV)