Rooted & Grounded in Love
There are things in this world you only come to know by experiencing them. My father’s family had several mechanics, both shade-tree and professional. One thing they learned was how to feel your way around a car engine. This is a necessary skill because not everything on the engine is visible when you work on it, especially if the engine is still on the frame. You have to develop a sense of touch, one honed by hours of reaching around and through difficult places and spaces to remove or place broken or worn-out parts.
I remember changing the brakes on my wife’s car years ago. There were certain bolts and brackets that were in tight cramped places and required removing parts I was afraid I might not get back on. So, I tried to reach them with the longest, skinniest wrenches and sockets I could get my hands on. I skinned knuckles, cracked a fingernail, and generally made myself miserable trying to save some money and doing it myself. After inventing some new words that Samuel Webster would be loath to put in the English dictionary, I managed to get the brakes on and functioning. The experience taught me how to change the brakes on a 1998 Saturn. It also taught me I never wanted to change the brakes on any car again.
Experience is, however, a great teacher. The idea of knowing and sensing by experience holds true for a lot of things. Teachers can often feel a class getting unruly before the kids start to misbehave (there’s usually a full moon). Law enforcement and military personnel often report feeling the hair stand up on the back of their neck or a prickling sensation when they are in danger. Parents often know their children are up to something by the look on their face, their body language. If we are attentive, experience teaches a great many things and hones those lessons into instincts, an innate sense of the world around us that requires a simple awareness to see.
In the Ephesian passage today, I think the writer is talking about a kind of experiential instinct in the passage we read, a sensing through the Spirit of God. “The Anointed One dwell in you through the trust in your hearts, deeply rooted and grounded in love.” There are two parts to this. First, that the Spirit of Christ (the Anointed One, literally the personality of Jesus) would be reflected into and out of you. This becomes the dominant lens you see the world through. By experience, you learn to trust the lens to show you how to live in The Way of Jesus.
Second, that this dominant lens is defined by love. We learn to ask the question, “How does this show either the love of God or the love of neighbor?” We who become followers of Jesus and truly allow our lives to be reframed by this way of thinking and living, learn to sense the work of the Holy Spirit, continuing to teach us the Jesus Way. The rooting and grounding from our passage become the core of our being and the expression of that core comes out as Jesus lives through us in our imitation of him.
When those things happen, we move on to the next part of the passage where certain things come as a response to the Christ dwelling in us through the trust in your hearts, deeply rooting and grounding in love. The writer of Ephesians say two things will happen: first, you’ll “have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, along with all other believers” in whom Christ dwells and second, you’ll “know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.” Basically, you will have a deeply rooted relational connection with God, experienced through love in ways you can’t begin to imagine, and this will fill you with the Spirit of God.
All of this sounds like some heavy theological musing. The reason for that is, it is. The writer of Ephesians is offering both a theological defense and a set of instructions for how we can approach living the Jesus Experience. There is a simple explanation to this. Love is experiential: you don’t explain it, you live it. The first three chapters of Ephesians are not just theological ideas to consider, they are the grounding for a way of life. Think about these ideas from the first three chapters:
- The experience of being reconciled to God (1:3-9, 2:1-22)
- The experience of being connected to all creation through reconciliation (1:10)
- Experiencing the calling and power of God (1:19-21)
- The experience of the love of God through Jesus (3:18-19)
With these foundational thoughts, we can begin to look at our lives and examine our relationship with God. In doing that, we can ask ourselves some questions by turning around the statements above.
- Am I reconciled to God?
- Do I feel a connection to the rest of creation?
- Do you feel called to a life of discipleship?
- Do you experience the power of God, a sense of God’s presence in your life?
- Do you experience love of God and love of neighbor?
These questions are not simply a personal, academic exercise. They are an invitation to test and question our experience, to consider where we have been and where that leads us to go. They become the first experiential stages of the Jesus Way, helping us to learn trust before we move farther into the journey. These first three chapters of Ephesians are not just explanation, but they are invitation. They tell us something of what we have experienced following the Jesus Way and at the same time invite others to experience the Way for the first time.
So, where are you in experiencing the Jesus Way? First timer? Well-traveled? Experienced journeyer?
Where are you going? Nowhere? Somewhere but don’t know where? Wandering but not necessarily lost? Deeper into the journey?
Where are you called to go?
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