In a Nutshell…
Read the passage here.
This is one of my favourite passages of scripture.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
It’s a great passage because of that phrase, “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…” It’s poetic; it’s powerful; it’s all-encompassing. It’s the kind of phrasing that people write songs with.
But what really captures me is Paul’s prayer that God would grant us power to grasp it – that we would be granted power to grasp God’s love. But why would Paul pray that we would have power to understand God’s love? Why not just pray that God love us (which he does regardless)?
There’s a book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It’s been around for some years and it’s a book that I often recommend to couples. Chapman essentially says that people express love in different ways and people receive love in different ways. Chapman identifies 5 such ways:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Again, Chapman’s basic premise is that each of us expresses each of these to differing extents and each of us receives each of these to differing extents. Some of us express love most often through Receiving Gifts. But if your partner’s primary way of receiving love is Acts of Service, he or she may not feel loved.
So, for example, a husband may bring flowers home to his wife each week (Gifts) as an act of love. But what the wife really needs in order to feel loved is for the husband to pitch in with the household chores (Acts of Service).
Or a child may need the parent to tell them that they are proud of them (Words of affirmation). But what the parent wants to do is take them fishing (Quality Time).
If a person is not showing you love in a way that resonates with you, you will (probably) not feel loved. And conversely, if you are getting love in a way that doesn’t resonate with you, you will (probably) take that person for granted.
Or we can take another example:
How many of you who are parents have ever had a child have a tantrum and tell you, “I hate you!” As a parent, you can brush that off pretty easily (I hope). But what if the child tells you, “You don’t love me!” That’s the kind of thing that can wound you. That’s the kind of thing that can devastate you.
A child often simply cannot understand the number of things that a parent does out of love. A child cannot understand that loving a child simply does not, and cannot, involve giving and doing only the things that the child thinks he or she wants. Loving a child means teaching and disciplining. Loving a child means not allowing that child to eat Lucky Charms for dinner, but feeding them broccoli and brussell sprouts. Loving a child means not allowing the child to sit in front of the TV for 8 hours straight.
Loving a child means not simply allowing them to do and be what they feel like, but helping them to do and be the best that they possibly can.
As a child, we don’t get that. As a child, we simply can’t understand the amount of work and the level of sacrifice involved in being a parent. Because our view of the world and life is so limited.
Now ramp that up to 100. Ramp it up to one million. Because our view of the world and life is too limited to understand the love of God. Each of us thinks we know what we want, what we need, from God. Each of us thinks we know what God has done and what God hasn’t done for us. But none of us can truly have a complete understanding, a full grasp of how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is the love of Christ.
I realize that it may seem an odd notion that it takes power to know God’s love. But God’s love is simply too big for us to grasp. The extent of God’s love has to be revealed to us. We cannot know it in and of ourselves. We each think we know what love is, whether we think we receive it or not. But maybe, just maybe, we set our sights too low. We are all children, toddlers, infants, in the light of the love of God.
So Now What…?
Margery Kempe, a great medieval English mystic, experienced God saying to her: “More pleasing to me than all your prayers, works, and penances is that you would believe I love you.”
As we enter into Lent, we enter into a period of reflection as we approach the cross – as we approach Good Friday and Easter. We reflect on the simple truth that God knows us. That God truly knows us. There is nothing we can hide from God. We keep no secrets from God. We cannot fool Him nor lie to Him.
And yet He loves us with an everlasting love. He loves us with an infinite love. He loves us so much that he became like one of us, gave his life for us, so that we might move from death to life. So that we might have life, real life, with one another. And so that we together might have life with Him.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.