Monday, July 30, 2012

And I Ponder God's Love For The Likes Of Me

I'm preaching from Ephesians at church right now. Yesterday, as I write, was the third Sunday we tarried with Paul as he wrote to the church in Ephesus as he sat in a Roman prison. Three Sundays to go and we're covering the entire chapters and not just the lectionary passages from each.

I'm preaching it not just as an ancient letter to a long ago church, but as a modern letter to Warren Plains United Methodist Church. It's a wonderful letter of encouragement. There's one simple, single sentence in chapter 3 that stops me, gets to me, and makes me ponder. From the New Living Translation, Ephesians 3: 18...

And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

I pause and think of myself here. And I think what it must have been like to have been the recipients of those words from a man who was sitting in a prison cell. Dark, dank, rodent and vermin infested. Maybe chained to a dirt wall underground. And he wants ME to understand God's love for ME! Amazing grace that chains cannot bound!

I filter everything I read and sing through many lenses, my melanoma lens is one of the first filters things must pass through. So, too, this verse must pass.

It takes power. Do I have the power to understand? Do you? Do I understand? Can I even begin to understand the love God has for me? No, I can't understand it. I trust it's there, I've seen it at work in my life, I've witnessed its effects, I've felt it. But understand it? No. I don't think that's fully possible.

Yet Paul believes we should have the power to understand. To understand the enormity of God's love for me. For each of us. It's boundless. No matter which direction we go, up, down, east, west, there are no borders. No boundaries. No cut-offs. No "don't go beyond this point." And I have to consider that I've been loved mighty good in my life. But, I've never been loved like that.

But what about melanoma? Does God still love me even now? And I know the answer. Now. Will I remember that answer and apply it to me if and when this disease rears its ugly head again in my life? If it spreads to my brain, like I know it can and might, will I feel like God has deserted me? Left me high and dry? Decided to throw me under the bus and to the beast? Will I look my possible impending death in the eye and dare God to blink? Despite how strong my faith is now, will it be that strong then?

I travel melanoma road with many people who are younger than me and have more advanced and active disease than me and I look at them and while I don't want to walk in their shoes, I want to be like them when I grow up.  I look at parents walking with their children, and again, while I don't want to walk in their shoes, I want to be just like them. Am I already just like them but don't know it yet? Time will tell. Right now, time is what it is. And right now time is my friend.

And I ponder God's love. For me. For them. For all who live with the beast in some capacity. While the knowledge that it is borderless and endless is awesome, the good news doesn't stop there. There is more encouragement and it is found in Romans 8: 38...

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.

Nor melanoma, nor hospitals, nor insurance companies, nor people who come against us, nor bad news that breaks our hearts, nothing that is thrown at us whether we catch it or not...nothing can separate me or anyone else or you from the power of God and God's love for each of us. For our families. For our friends.

It's a tough love though. And it's a tender love. It's a love that will not and cannot let us go but it's a love that doesn't always let us have our way. It's a love that sees a big complete picture that we can neither see nor accurately imagine or fathom.

We are limited. God's love is not. We have times and seasons. God's love does not. We are human and finitely mortal. God's love is neither. We have endings. God's love knows no end.

In this life and the next.

I'll never understand.

I'll always be grateful though.

Melanoma, eat your heart out. Oh, that's right. You don't have a heart.

Thanks be to God that HE does! Amen and Amen!