We’re not really sure how to do it when it comes upon us. How does one take it all in? You’ve likely had such an experience, somewhere in your life, perhaps more than once. The experience that overwhelms, that you have a hard time “taking in.”
It’s the experience one has at the birth of your child. For months you go through stages of preparation, wondering about it, experiencing the changes in the body, the moods and the relationship with spouse and the extended family, but none of that ever quite prepares you for that moment when the fragile new life is placed within your arms.
How do you take this all in? This moment? This feeling? This awe? This responsibility? This joy and fear all wrapped up into one?
Or it might be the moment of graduation from school, be it high school, college, or graduate school. The years of experiences all rolled into that moment of a few steps across a stage, a handshake and a piece of paper (or even empty placard – you get the diploma later!) It is all handed to you and it is like receiving your whole life.
How do you take it all in? This moment of going from who you were to who you are about to become? How do you take in the transition from someone who has had to meet requirements and regimented goals, and who has been told what they can and cannot do up to this point. This moment when suddenly you are responsible for your own life and advancement, with all the rights, privileges and fears thereof? You will now be making decisions on your own that will have effect on your whole life! How do you take that in?
Or, it might be that milestone achievement within a career. The moment when you hit the pinnacle, when you win the award, when you make the difference you always hoped you would make, and are honored or recognized for an achievement. You want to dwell there, bask a bit, but you also feel the pressure to move on, to do more. How do I top this? Where do I go from here?
Or perhaps the milestone is the moment when your retirement is final, and you move from the regiment of achievement and striving toward measured goals to stepping back or stepping away from what it is that has likely defined your very identity for decades.
How do you take this in?
The relief and joy of not having to punch a clock or file the paperwork ever again, but also that empty feeling of wondering what comes next, and just who and what you are now that you are no longer defined by a job or a title?
It helps to imagine forward sometimes in situations like these. Try to imagine what it might be like.
You imagine what it will be like to be a parent, take the kids to ball games, Disney, etc.
You imagine what it will be like to finally snag that ideal job, win that award, what you think it will feel like when you are successful.
You imagine what it will be like to finally retire and have all the freedom it will afford.
But all you can do is imagine. What it will actually look like is never quite what you imagine, and you know that.
In Ephesians the author is trying to get us to use that same kind of “forward thinking imagination” not to consider your future or your own life, but rather God’s love and hopes for you.
“Plant your feet firmly in love and take in if you can all the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.” The author says.
How does one do that? How do you take all that in?
I suspect one does it the same way one does the other kind of creative imagination. It is a mixture of what you observe in others and what you experience yourself along the way.
“Plant your feet firmly in love” the author implores, but he does so after revealing that he is praying fervently for these people in Ephesus.
So one part of this creative imagination is getting in tune with the experience and observation of others.
They see the graciousness, the love this author has for them in his writings, and that gives them an access point to think about this love of God.
This love that brings the author to his knees, … not in fear or terror, but in awe of the God who loves and who provides all things and blesses.
This is an access point is it not?
It’s not unlike looking to our own parents when your own child is laid in your arms. They got through this, they did all right, they are there for me… there is richness of experience already placed within me just by being nurtured by them.
It’s not unlike looking across the stage at those professors who taught you, and who beam now at you in pride. They made this journey themselves and look at where they are!
You can do the walk as well.
You can imagine what lies in your future because of what they have shared of themselves with you.
It’s not knees that they bow, but caps in recognition of what they see in your future as they hand that token of recognition to you.
It’s an access point, not unlike the encouragement of co-workers or well wishes of colleagues who believed in you and who worked beside you to bring you to this future.
None of us gets to see what the future holds ahead of time.
What we are privileged to see is the kind of gift of inner strength that is conferred through love, relationship, and encouragement.
So the author of Ephesians wants us to imagine how much God is pulling for us.
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
I don’t think we hear encouragement like that nearly often enough.
I think the propensity in our world is to point out shortcomings, and faults, and to evaluate based upon where further growth is required. When the world speaks, it most often says “do better next time.”
The net result of that is to fall into a kind of scarcity thinking that clouds our vision of the future.
We’re always assuming that whatever it is we need, there just isn’t enough of to go around.
Scarcity tries to make things precious by convincing you that there is a finite quantity of this, and so for you to get yours it must be taken from someone else, denied to someone else.
Gold markets thrive in scarcity thinking.
Diamonds are considered precious because they are rare and difficult to obtain. DeBoer’s capitalized on that to put one on the finger of every fiancé or wife as a sign of their value or worth, “how much I love you.”
I imagine that it comes as really bad news to DeBoer’s that scientists now understand that there are trillions of tons of diamonds 150 miles down. They are not rare, just hard to get to.
God will have none of that scarcity thinking.
For God, blessing is expansive, and love is a commodity that increases in value the more of it that is spread around. For God, the resources of love are unlimited, and potential for more is always increasing, and it is out of the abundance of God’s grace and love that there is more than enough for all.
Ponder that, the next time you get to the end of a nature show and they start the inevitable downbeat trend of how fragile this world is.
That is nonsense.
The earth will carry on quite merrily for at least another 7.6 billion years until it is consumed in the corona as our Sun becomes a Red Giant. Our demise is not because things running out, but rather because they become too full! The Sun moving from hydrogen to Helium for fuel, and now too full of Helium to remain its old size and shape!
Whether humankind will be around, or the current flora and fauna configuration, well that’s another matter.
That will depend upon our capacity to move from scarcity thinking to expansive, love filled thinking. Do we care enough about the wonder of this world to love it, preserve it, or will we fall into the scarcity thinking that drives the acquisition of resources and the accumulation of wealth.
The earth won’t end with us, it will just transition beyond us… which is again not a matter of things running out but rather God being too gracious with pouring out things!
The author of Ephesians invites us to try to get our heads around the expansiveness of God and God’s grace, but not in abstract, but rather in how it applies to you.
The power to work within you!
The power to accomplish abundantly!
The power to do far more than we can ever imagine, and far greater things than we could ever ask for!
This is the invitation today.
Engage in some creative imagination on the limitless love and goodness of God, and how God’s great desire is to channel all of that right through you to make a difference in this world.
We’re really not sure how to take all of that in, are we?
That’s why we’re in this together, and why we have a choice to make every day.
We can join with the voices of this world that turn to fear, scarcity, exclusion and try to use those things to make us afraid as well, and make us cower back, make us lose our imagination.
“Maybe they’re right, maybe there’s not enough…”
Or, we can listen to the author of Ephesians and consider for just one moment the height and depth and breadth and fullness of God’s love for this world, and then look around us at those who have encouraged us, prayed for us, believed in us, and passed this message on to us as a message to be shared with a scared and scarred world.
Can you dare to imagine what it would look like if acted as if God’s love was inexhaustible, and given for all?
Can you dare to imagine living into that future, with your next action, your next decision?