15. Spiritual growth -my role, part II.
Ephesians 3:14-21, focusing on verses 17-19: “then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, … how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.” (NLT, emphasis mine)
- My part in growing spiritually, continued. v. 19 – experience His love. According to Peter T. O’Brien (The Letter to the Ephesians commentary*), apparently Paul was concerned that his readers did not fully appreciate Christ’s love, otherwise he would not have painted such a dramatic picture of the dimensions of God’s love and stressed the importance of knowing and experiencing that love. I find it somewhat reassuring that I am not the only Christian who has had trouble believing in the vastness of God’s love. I have often wondered why it took me so long to believe that God loved me unconditionally. Perhaps Ephesians 3:19 sheds some light on this. God’s love is too great for anyone to understand it fully; it might be harder for some of us to understand certain aspects of His love, especially if they have not been modeled for us by our human fathers; and perhaps some of us are just slower learners. My hope-filled view is that my experience of His love will continue to expand throughout the rest of my life. I expect to keep growing in my awareness and appreciation of His love. What an encouragement for the future!
It’s one thing to know that God loves me. It’s another to feel His love emotionally. And it’s an even deeper experience to believe God’s love so deeply that it changes the way I think and act. Do I act as if I believe that God loves me? How do I increase my experience of God’s love?
Sometimes it helps me understand a spiritual concept if I use a human analogy. In this case, I think of how I realized that my husband Allan loved me. First, I recognized signs that he was interested in me and seemed to enjoy being with me. He acted lovingly toward me, long before he said he loved me. He demonstrated his love by sharing his thoughts, discussing our mutual interests for hours at a time, listening to me attentively, as if he really cared about my ideas; by writing letters and giving notes, cards, and little gifts to me. And then finally telling me that he loved me. By that time, I had already developed a deep love for him. Is it possible to be loved, and not recognize it or experience it or believe it? Yes, on the human level and also on the spiritual level. I want to live in the truth of His love, experiencing it deeply.
God has demonstrated His love to me in each of the ways Allan did. Looking back, I see it now. To grow in experiencing His love, I need to be aware of ways God shows He loves me; I need to believe Him when He writes notes to me saying that He loves me (in the Bible). My emotions will follow if I truly believe Him. Trusting God and opening myself to experience His love are some of the ways that I can cooperate with God as He matures me spiritually.
Lord, open my eyes to Your love in everything I see, feel, and think. Help me to see daily indications of Your love. Father, I want to respond to You in ways that invite You to transform me into the person You created me to be. Amen.
*O’Brien, Peter T (1999). The Letter to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans.