But this. This is perhaps one of my favorite pictures - maybe ever, but most certainly from my past 5 + years of ministry. I'm on a rocky "mountain" in Arizona during our mission trip. Late in the day, on our last day of work, two groups decided to take a hike and find a place to read scripture. One of the girls randomly chose Ephesians 3. And to that we turned.
Ephesians 3. Up until that point, I'd read "over" this passage many times. I'd thought of it, reflected on it, but it didn't really move me. It is a great passage, one of many that are living and active. But up on the mountain, this passage came to life. As we read, we learned about Paul and who he was in Christ. We read about him being a servant of the gospel. We read about God's grace. We were reminded that like Paul, we all have been given grace to preach, teach and share about our awesome Lord and Savior. It was awesome, the view was fantastic, the wind was just right, and until the lightning started, the group was engaged in studying God's word.
And we came to 3:14 - 20:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 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.
I looked at the 6 young people I've worked with for so long. Two heading to college. One entering his senior year, and three just starting their time in Sr. High Ministry. These words became so much more than God's word on the page. As we read Paul's prayer for the Ephesians, I realized this prayer wasn't just Paul's for the Ephesians. It was also my prayer for the kids. Even now, months later, when I think of these words and read this passage, I pray for each of those young people "up on the mountain," that they know this deep love of Christ. It is one of my favorite moments in ministry.
For a long time, I would look at this picture, think about this passage and recall it as a memory for the books. I couldn't figure out why this picture and this passage "got to me" the way it did. I mean I like the kids enough, but really. There was something deeper going on.
Before this moment on the mountain, this passage was barely on my radar. And then it kept showing up. In messages. In sermons. In my devos. In training I went to. At intensives. In a seminary assignment. Each time this passage came up, it elicited a smile and over time a profound sense that God was telling me something on the mountain too.
Truth is, God's been working on me and narrowing my call. Over the past months, I've experienced a tension of how and where I am called to serve and who God wants me to minister to. Honestly, it's stressful. It makes one feel weak, unsure and insecure. It makes me question God's plan and his provision. It leads to restlessness, doubt, and frustration. And then, God's word delivers.
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power."
"And I pray that you being rooted and established in love (JESUS) may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."
"That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
I've needed these words the past few months. I've needed the reminder that he can - and does - strengthen. I've needed the reminder to remain rooted and established in Christ. I've needed the reminder that he's called me to preach and teach. I've needed the reminder of how great his love is.
DAILY I've needed the reminder that knowing God and him intimately knowing me is really all I need.
Now, when I look at this photo, I see something different. This moment and this passage was a message for me as much as it was for them. It was up on the mountain where, in a random passage of scripture, his love captured me again. It was up on the mountain where I was reminded that regardless of the peaks and valleys of life and faith and call, God's power is big. We are filled beyond measure when we are rooted in Christ. And when we are firmly established in his love, we may not grasp his love, but we definitely want nothing else, nothing more than him.
"This I know..."