formation friday: deep, wide, high, long love

blog formation friday wide long high deep love* i had this post ready to go yesterday but before i published it i heard the news from home (i’m in california at the moment for my grandma’s memorial service) that they had positively identified precious 9 year old jessica ridgeway’s body, found a mile or so from our house in colorado.  in these moments, there are no words. the horror of it all, the reality, is often too much to bear and my kids & so many others are scared.  i know you already are, but please continue to pray for justice, her dear family as they grieve, and for all the trauma that ripples out to so many. may God’s love & hope prevail above evil, and may we never try to make sense out of what doesn’t.  

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many people i know, when we’re honest, often feel unworthy, unlovable, unvaluable, and not-enough somehow. some have become brave and are able to say these feelings out loud in safe places while many, many others suffer in secret silence.  i will be bold enough to say that i think one of the greatest sins of this world is self-hatred.  our lack of grace and acceptance toward ourselves robs us of so much life and is the core of so many of the world’s–and the church’s–problems.

some of you know that last week i was in italy-greece-turkey being a totally geeky tourist.  it was awesome, a lifetime memory.  my favorite place was turkey & walking through the incredible ruins of the city of ephesus.   i stood in the exact spot that the apostle paul preached as a beautiful morning sun cracked through the pillars.  it was holy & beautiful.  i re-read the book of ephesians afterward.  there are so many gems in there, and i especially love this passage in chapter 3:

“and i pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 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, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (v. 17-19)

i don’t know where you are today, but i know that i often struggle with feeling loved.  i know in my head i am loved by God as his creation.  i know all the right God answers.  i know how to say the right things that make me sound like i have feeling loved nailed down. and i can say with confidence that i feel more loved and secure than i have ever felt before, but i can also say with confidence that sometimes the deep and wide and high and long love of God feels strangely elusive and i feel sand, not rock, underneath my feet.

i don’t think this feeling is God’s fault.  i don’t think he’s withholding something from me because i’m doing this or not doing that.   i don’t think he’s mad at me for not holding on to this love 100% of the time, 100% of the way.

i sense a lot of pleading in paul’s writings, his longing for the people he’s writing to to understand more fully these important truths.  i think God also pleads with me sometimes, hoping that i’ll “grasp” the truth in ways that will keep transforming me into a more free, whole, grounded-in-God’s-love-and-hope-and-peace person. 

i wonder if today, God might be pleading with some of us, too.  knocking on the door of our hearts, not angry with us for not getting it, but hoping that some of his love will soak into our skin & bones & hearts & heads today in a deeper way.

i don’t want to be presumptious and have us try to get into God’s head and play God, but i do think it can be helpful to listen for what we think he might be trying to say to us, what he might be pleading with us to grasp.  sometimes it can help for us to consider our own in-the-flesh relationships first and translate some of that over to God’s heart for us.

be quiet for a few minutes. try to clear your mind.

consider someone you deeply love that might sometimes doubt it (it can be a partner, a friend, a child, a parent, or ?) what are some things you want to say to them, that you long for them to know about your heart & love for them?

now take a few minutes and switch gears, listening for what God might be wanting to say to you–yes you–about his love? 

if you can, write it down.  put your name in front of it. 

here’s mine:

kathy, my love is above you & below you & beside you & in front of you & behind you & in you.  nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from it.  rest in it today.  

love and hope this weekend, kathy

ps: while i was standing there taking this picture, jose was yelling down “submit!”, ha ha.

pps:  my friend pam hogeweide has a weekly series called HERetic. i’m grateful to know pam & be part of this week’s column.  it feels so long ago that lifeway refused to sell my book when they found out i was a female lead pastor in 2007 but it is good for me, for us, to remember–gender inequality in the church is real.  when that decision got made, that book’s sales were immediately choked off because it no longer had a big distribution channel.  the joke of the whole thing is that the book was written for women, not men, but because they scripturally disagree with female lead pastors, they turned back their big order when they found out.

 

 

 

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

18 Comments

  • beautiful. I really believe God pleads with me often, too. Why is it so easy to forget, not believe, reject His love? Everything else seems so much louder. I’m so immature in His love some times – one little comment will send me totally out of whack in my thoughts…and before you know it I’m questioning God & His love. The times I’m most susceptible to it is when I haven’t quieted my soul – physically, spiritually – to hear from Him. His voice to me is a whisper. I think the physical rest & quiet is so essential – and I don’t take that time with Him as much as I want to/ need to. <3

    Reply
  • Yeah, it’s tough grasping the love of Christ. People in our lives – parents, boyfriends, spouses, friends and others – “take off”, “move on” or whatever term we may use to say they left us behind. So why should we really think Jesus won’t do the same? Will he really be there when we need him? Here’s a really tough question: Where was he when little Jessica needed him most?

    I make lifelong friendships. I rarely leave my friends, which seems to confuse most people. They expect almost everyone to eventually leave. I see love as a commitment, a commitment to be there.

    We want Jesus to always be there. Becoming one of us, knowing it would get him killed in a really nasty way does seem to indicate he made a major commitment to us. But will he be there when we need him most? I choose to believe he will be. The scary part is that it may not mean he will fix our problem(s). But he will be there to go through them with us.

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    • thanks, sam, yes, there is a big difference between love and fixing problems. that’s one of the hard things about some of our jacked up theology is that we’ve been taught that God’s a problem fixer and so when things don’t change we can feel so abandoned. love is more than problem fixing. the most compelling shift in my image of God came in the one thing i hold on to most–he will never leave me and is always with me, no matter what.

      Reply
  • I am going to be honest, and say that I am not really sure what God would say to me right now. I used to be able to tow the line and easily repeat the Jesus loves me line, but I don’t feel it. It doesn’t stop me from being able to encourage others, because that is easy. Feeling loved, unconditionally & deeply, is painful work, but I can say that I can see movement. 🙂

    Reply
  • I relate to what Stacy shared. The tough, painful work is to accept and realize with my entire being the height, lenth width and depth of Christ’s love- always. I think theology affecfs this. The theology that states Jesus came only for the elect, whoever they may be, as well as seeing God wanting a certain performance from me via faith and obedience messes with me deep in just being able to know and feel His love. Despite all this though, the prayer I have is that His love is always there and I do have movement like Stacy shared. I can only imagine how it felt standing in Ephesus Kathy and contemplating Pauls words.

    Reply
    • thanks, robert, and yes, our jacked up theology has really done a number on a lot of our heads about worth and what it means to be loved. my hope for you and all of us is that somehow some way more and more of God’s real love sinks in and those voices of condemnation, unworthiness and insecurity fade away over time.

      Reply
  • I am so very sorry to read of this tragedy in your community. These are some of the hardest, most mysterious things – these horrors that happen to innocents. May you and your family find your way to peace as you continue to process it all. This is a lovely post – but I have to say when I read the tag at the end, I felt positively ill. REALLY?? In 2007, they refused to carry a book written by a female lead pastor? How very disheartening and actually – disgusting, to put it plainly. Just.Plain.Wrong. Sigh.

    Reply
    • thanks, diana. yeah, that ps was a weird addendum to a post on love, ha ha. but yes, it all happened. i didn’t even blog on my own at that point so i didn’t have a great place to process it publicly but oh, i’d do it differently this time around! 5 years, i’ve come a long way!

      Reply
  • Kathy – I love this post and I need it as I think so many will/do. I haven’t been a regular church attendee for several years now but I still find myself in need of an encouraging minister and you are someone who plays that role in my life when you write stuff like this. Thanks for caring so much. Thanks for understanding.

    Reply
  • Thanks so much Kathy. Through the years I have measured if I’m love worthy through people especially men since I did not have a Dad that was emotionally present. I have trusted too much in others opinions of me and because of that have felt great loss & disappointment. I wanted and expected so much from others. But today I realize that I am so loved by God, by dear Jesus. I realize how so many others are in the same place and don’t even know who Jesus is…how hard is that! God’s comforting words would be: “Irene, you fight so hard to find that love when I am so near and want to love you so much. Don’t be afraid just know I am real and take me at my word…I love you”

    Reply

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