“You want me to do what? That sounds impossible and ridiculous.”
As an elementary school kid my mom was religious about my brothers and I having swim lessons every summer, whether we wanted them or not. We lived in Kansas at the time and there was a community pool just down the street from our house. Twice a week, on hot mid-west summer days we would head there for swim lessons. Today we were learning how to float on our backs. Up to this point in life, my experience taught me that in order to survive in the water an individual needed to work (stroke, kick, swim, tread water, etc…) to keep their head above water. Today I was learning something different.
“Really. I’m serious.” said my swim instructor. “Just lean back with your arms stretched out and you’ll lay there and float.”
After a few failed attempts from flailing my arms and legs, on my next try I did it! I did exactly what he said. I took a deep breath and relaxed my body. I leaned backward and with a slight arch in my back. I stretched out my arms and with the warm Kansas sun shinning down on my face, I slowly bobbed up and down on the surface of the water. It was amazing!
A few weeks back I kicked off a series of posts reflecting on the fullness of God that Paul mentions in his prayer for the Ephesian church. You can find that post here.
Today, we reflect on the question what is the fullness of God? At some level the idea of God’s fullness can seem a bit abstract. Is it a feeling? Access to deeper Biblical insight? Greater spiritual maturity? What exactly is it?
But perhaps, it’s not so much a question of what, but rather a question of who.
In Colossians Paul writes, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness (2:9-10).” In the first fourteen verses in Ephesians 1, Paul states seven times that we have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. The person of Jesus is the one through whom the fullness of God is brought to fulfillment.
But again, what does it mean to experience the fullness of God in Christ?
In his prayer for the church in Ephesus, Paul says explicitly that the fullness of God is found in the love of Christ. He writes,
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 (Eph 3:17-19).
A.W. Tozer said, “Knowledge by acquaintance is always better than knowledge by description.” The fullness of God in Christ isn’t just believing that God loves you, it’s knowing and experiencing His love for you.
But that still seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? What is that experience like? Is it butterflies in your stomach? Sweaty palms, a racing heart and fumbled words as you talk to the man or woman who has most recently captured your heart?
David Benner in his book Surrender to Love describes it as “floating” in the presence of God. In his book he tells the story of teaching some folks how to swim and specifically float in the water with no flotation device. He said the key is to surrender and trust, to put one’s full weight on the water and completely let go. He writes, “We float only when we stop trying to do so. And we never discover that we do not need to do anything to stay afloat until we let go.”
We can only float when we are fully relaxed, fully extended and vulnerable. Once we think we need to do something to stay afloat, we tense up and start to sink.
This is a great parallel when it comes to experiencing the fullness of God’s love. We experience and receive it only when we come to realize that we don’t have to do anything to earn it. All we have to do is let go and surrender to it.
This may be the most challenging aspect of it all. It seems counterintuitive. We are conditioned to work for and earn the things we receive. Taking something for free makes us feel like lesser of a person.
But when it comes to God’s love, receiving it for free may actually make you more of a person.
So this week…
May you lean back and relax.
May you let go and surrender.
May you float in the fullness of God’s love for you.
1. Where do you experience God’s love most vividly and frequently?
2. What are the barriers in your life to receiving God’s love?