Driving past a pond yesterday, I saw a couple Canada Geese swimming around, doing what Geese do. What marvelously annoying creature they are. Where I grew up, a huge flock would hang out in the harbour for a while every year before making their expedition south for the winter. Most mornings they would wake me up at dawn with their incessant honking; remarkably loud when there's 500 of the buggers. Anyway, these two were just minding their business swimming around. When I saw them I remembered this line from a cheesy football movie. Coach McGinty (Gene Hackman) says to Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), quarterbacks are "Like a duck on the pond. On the surface everything looks calm, but beneath the water those little feet are churning a mile a minute." Imagine God being able to speak to people through cheesy football movies and honking geese; but he does, and he did.
I really love this verse in Ephesians where Paul writes to his friends and says, I want you to experience how long and wide and high and deep Jesus love is for them. Sometimes, if I'm honest, I feel like a duck. My faith has a two dimensional quality. Things on the surface look fine, all the while, I'm paddling like a mad duck to try to get anywhere. I know Jesus didn't intend for my faith to be played out that way, he's got way more for me that that. Lot's of Jesus followers get trapped in this idea, they get trapped part way into really experiencing God. Somehow, the idea that being a Christian means you've got it all together, or at least have to make it look that way on the surface. That idea doesn't come from scripture and it certainly doesn't get us anywhere with our Father in heaven. But there we are, paddling around on the pond, all the while having no clue that the pond is deeper that we can possibly imagine.
Lot's of folks can get trapped in flat, square surface faith. Maybe they know scripture well. The words on the page are important and meaningful but that's where they stay. Stories in a book. Rules and regulations to govern life. Codes and laws to keep us with in the bounds. Flat and square, defined edges you can't see past, right angles to keep you from getting crooked.
But Paul says they're more.
Sometimes our faith makes it to three dimensions. Boxes. A place where faith can be contained. Some semblance of structure and usefulness. Somewhere to hide if the world gets too scary. Somewhere to store things in case you need them later. Building blocks in monuments to remind of a past time when things seemed alive.
But Paul says they're more.
Paul wants his friends to experience another dimension of their faith, another dimension of Jesus. Depth is something much harder to define, much harder to nail down. Depth seems something much more vast and mysterious than Length and Width and Height. Finding depth seems to take an endless life long exploration, especially to Paul's friends in Ephesus. Ephesus was a coastal city where people knew what it meant to plumb the depths of the Sea. Paul knew what it was like be shipwrecked in the deep bottomlessness with only God to cling to for life. He knew the utter depths of joy in the midst of pain and trouble. He knew there was something well beyond the faith he once had; of rules and laws and ceremonies and knowledge which he then counted as something but now as trash compared to the love and grace and mercy of Jesus.
Paul made no allusions to having it all together. If you saw Paul, you wouldn't likely think that dudes got this "Christian walk thing" figured out - at least by our North American, reformed, respectable, sanitized version of Christian walking. Paul was put in jail, beaten up, run out of town, abandoned by his friends and arguing with other Christians. He was a drifter who talked too much, didn't have a suit and tie, no Christian fish decal on his donkey, bad at small talk, and said really politically incorrect things about other peoples religion... but he was real - kind of like Jesus. He talked about his faith, he lived his faith, he experienced his faith. AND he really wanted everyone to do the same with their's.
Paul also knew that this ability to grasp all the dimensions of the love of Christ comes not from us, from our ability or willingness or capacity to figure it out, but by the power of God, through the Holy Spirit. These dimensions aren't something we ascertain by our goodness, they aren't earned by our obedience, they aren't won by our efforts. They're part of the free gift of Grace because of what Jesus did in his life, death and resurrection. They're part of the deal. They're what God wants us to see, know and experience in our life with him and he's given us his own Spirit so that we can have the power to understand what is incomprehensible on our own. But it is possible with Him. And it's His great desire that we take him up on the offer.
So, like Paul, I "pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with powerthrough 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 saints, 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.