Sunday, April 8, 2018

Wide. Long. High. Deep.

One of my family's favorite places to getaway to is the beach. We absolutely love Florida! One of the things I love most about living in the South along the Gulf Coast, is that we are only a short distance away from some of the most beautiful waters.
Let’s not even talk about the delectable, fresh seafood we are popular for! But we love the beach. It’s our number one place to go when my husband Jeremy and I want to mix relaxation for ourselves and fun for the kids.
For me, the sound of the ocean is so soothing. I can sit with my feet buried in the sand and listen to the waves crashing for hours. Something about being there makes me feel one with God’s Spirit and I feel so overwhelmed by the enormity of His love. Sitting on the beach always puts me in the mind of Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:18 when he speaks about us knowing how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is for us. When you look out into the ocean, there is no way to tell where it begins or where it ends; no way to measure its width or its depth.
I’m a natural observer, so one of the things I often do is people watch. From it, I always draw so much inspiration. During my recent time at the beach, I watched how some people stood along the shore, only allowing the ocean water enough freedom to tickle their feet.
There were some who were a bit braver, but still kept it safe by barely going out waist deep into the water. Then there were those more daring who went so far into the ocean that their bodies were fully enveloped in every rising wave. Now, in my mind, I am LaKeisha Rainey-Collins, PsyD, so I made a few analyses based on what I observed in each different group of people.
For those who only got their feet wet, they like the idea of the ocean, but the vastness and power of it is frightening to them. They want to step in a little deeper, but aren’t sure if they can handle being all in. So, the shore is their safe place. It’s where they are comfortable, and anything beyond that provokes fear.
Those who went in waist deep have an understanding and enjoyment of the ocean, but still want to control how much power the force of the ocean’s waves has upon them. Any further, and they are unsure if they can withstand without being overtaken.
The ones who ventured out in the deep understand and embrace the power of the ocean. They are totally open to and not afraid of the waves engulfing their being. They feel free being consumed by its strength and welcome it.
As I mentioned, I always liken the ocean to God’s love. As I observed and analyzed the people I saw, I thought about my journey to embracing The Father’s love for me. At different points in my life, I have been just like my fellow beach-goers.
Like the ones who only allowed the water to touch their feet, I once only embraced God’s love at the surface. I knew He loved me and it all sounded really good, but I couldn’t understand how something so big and deep could be so available to me with no restrictions or requirements. So, I stayed on the shore of God’s love, too afraid to venture out any further, because what if something happened and I messed it up?
Then, as those waist-deep, I grew a bit in my relationship with and knowledge of the Lord, I opened my heart a bit more to receiving His love, but I still had reservations. Through my actions, I’d had to beg so many people to love me and I had committed countless sins, so, still, fully grasping the concept of God’s affection for me was challenging. There was no way I could handle going deep only to have God throw me back ashore because my life failed to always align with His word.
I think now, at this point in my life, I am most like those who venture out in the deep waters. I finally realize that God’s love for me isn’t at all based on me, so I daily immerse myself in the depths of His affection. I allow it to fully cover me, comfort me, validate me, strengthen me, and refresh me. The waves of His love crash over me and lift me up, and I both lose and find myself.
It’s an amazing, indescribable kind of love, which, just like the beach, is open and accessible to all. Anyone can go to the beach at any time and swim out as far as their heart desires. Like God’s love, none of us is restricted from diving into the depths of it. It is not God who places boundaries on His affection, but our inability to believe that we are deserving of something so perfect that limits us from fully accepting it.
In life, we are so accustomed to having to perform for things, because it’s very rare that anyone just gives us anything just because. If you want a raise or promotion, you have to perform over and beyond to gain your boss’ attention. If you have a love interest, you are expected to do certain things to obtain and maintain their affection. If you’re in school, in order to do well, there’s a particular level of class and test performance that is required for you.
You have to do good, be good, look good in order to retain certain goods. And when you fail to perform well, most times, what you wanted is taken away from you, and you are made to believe you aren’t good enough. In this world, getting something for nothing just does not exist.
This programs you to think that God must be the same way when it comes to His love for you. You think that the moment you do something He doesn’t like, He’ll snatch His love away from you. You believe there’s no way He can love you so deeply when you’ve spent so many years deep in sin. You think you must give something in order to receive love from Him.
It doesn’t work like that though, sis.
There are no prerequisites or conditions tied to qualifying you for the love of Abba Father. There is nothing you can do to earn it and nothing you can do to lose it. It’s a true just because kind of love. God’s love is not something you earn, it’s something you experience, and in order to experience it, you must first embrace it. In order to embrace, you must believe it is unconditional, and not based on how good or how bad you are.
Ephesians 1:4-5 helped me to understand that God’s love is unconditional. It says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (NIV).
Before the foundation of the world…
Before your parents ever met…
Before you committed your first sin…
Before you had any chance to discredit yourself…
God loved and chose you. He decided beforehand to adopt you as His daughter, already knowing every single thing about you. The beautiful thing about adoption is that it is a conscious choice. Adoptive parents choose to love a child, despite what they may know about the circumstances surrounding their existence.
For someone to know every detail of your life and still choose you is the purest form of love without conditions, and God has that type of love just for you. You cannot measure immeasurable love with feelings. The Father uses no measuring stick when it comes to how much He adores and treasures you.
Immerse yourself in His love. Open your heart and allow it to sink deep into the abyss of God’s affection. Let it consume you.
Like the span of the ocean is too great to comprehend, in echo of the Apostle Paul, though too vast to fully understand, may you know and experience the depth, the width, the length, and the height of God’s love for you. May His perfect, pure, powerful love envelop your entire being and cast out all of your fears.
Dive in; there are no limits to His love.

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