Remember when your children were younger?
Remember when you walked into the house after work, or picked them up from school, or even just saw them first thing in the morning? I may be remembering through rose colored glasses, but in my memory there were hugs. Lots of them. Sometimes too many of them. But they were always there – the physical sign of affection from your children. Those days, your kids would throw themselves into your arms with reckless abandon, holding nothing back.
But kids get older, and I’ve noticed that as mine have aged, there is a diminishing amount of these same displays of affection. Getting a hug from a pre-teen or teenager can seem like a chore; there’s a certain awkwardness about it. I suppose that’s the way of things. You start to grow up a little bit and you find that you’re a bit too old, too mature, and too cool for these displays of love and affection.
On my best days I know that this indeed just the natural progression of parenting. On my worst days, though, it feels like my kids are growing out of their love for me and my love for them.
It does make me wonder, though, if we do similar things spiritually – that we tend to grow up out of the love of God. Sure, there were days when we first heard the gospel, were first floored by the realization of the extravagant nature of God’s love for us, but then we start to grow. We start to learn. We involve ourselves in the “deeper” things of theology, relegating the love of God to the days of Vacation Bible School and macaroni art from Sunday school.
But we don’t grow out of God’s love. In fact, as we grow and mature as Christians, we ought to grow more deeply into it. This is what Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus:
I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:18-19).
We are indeed rooted and firmly established in the love of God, for God has not left His love in doubt. No matter what might happen to us or around us circumstantially, God has demonstrated His love for us in that Christ has died. This case is closed.
But the love of God is not only the foundation upon which we built the Christian life; it is the continual experience of the Christian life. We are meant, having been rooted and established in the firm love of God to continue to grow in our knowledge of this love.
This is an amazing thing – so amazing that Paul actually prayed that we would be able to comprehend the length, width, height and depth of God’s love. But that’s the thing about the love of God – just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, you are overwhelmed again and again. You might say, as Paul did, that this love is not the stuff of intellectual pursuit, but instead of experience. This is knowing God’s love that surpasses knowledge.
I wonder today if I have begun to grow out of this. Have I begun to think of myself as too mature, too educated, too “spiritual” to once again experience this unbridled sense of the love of God. I hope not, for me and for you. Let us, then, be careful as we move further into the faith that we don’t grow out of that which we are meant to push further into.