Read 2 Samuel 18:31-33
31 Then the man from Ethiopia arrived and said, “I have good news for my lord the king. Today the Lord has rescued you from all those who rebelled against you.”
32 “What about young Absalom?” the king demanded. “Is he all right?”
And the Ethiopian replied, “May all of your enemies, my lord the king, both now and in the future, share the fate of that young man!”
33 The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” (NLT)
At first glance this seems pretty straightforward. King David gets a report from the battlefield that his son, Absalom, has been killed in the fighting. Naturally he grieves at the news. But the wider context of this passage tells us something of deeper significance.
David’s son, Absalom, has not been a model son. He has caused trouble in the family. He was banished but brought back by a merciful father. He repaid his father by leading an armed revolt against him. Absalom caused great pain for his father with his misconduct and his treachery.
And yet here we have David mourning his death. Which is sort of a model for much parental love. A child may do us grievous harm and yet we offer grace to them. A child may wander far from us and yet we may long for a homecoming. A child who caused so much trouble in life is yet mourned deeply in death.
Many parents can identify with David. Love coexists with pain. Love is extended to the occasionally unlovely, especially if they are family. And so often the complexity and depth of love is revealed in times of loss. Such is the ambiguity of love.