Just jogging around Ephesians the other day and had a thought.
The author of this letter to the church of Ephesus has so many great things to say, and I’m kind of sitting with a couple of sections:
In chapter 3 – “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.”
In chapter 4 – “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
More often than not I am leaning toward, striving to attain, relying on, or aiming to have the fullness of…not God…the fullness of me.
I can easily find myself wondering why I can’t seem to attain these things mentioned above. I keep trying to fill up empty pockets in my life with things in my own power, with my own idea of what my potential, my own “fullness” looks like.
I had a spiritual leader in my life that would often remind me that I am simply the vessel. I would get so worked up about being enough, doing enough, and having enough. Or I could worry I would say the right things, preach the right message, offer the right talents. Time and time again she would remind me, “You are the vessel. God has already deposited in you good works. He has already given you all you need. You just simply need to pour out from all He has already deposited in you.”
We say, sing, and write about “You are the potter Lord, I am at the clay.” But then we don’t consider where the fullness, the stuff that’s going to be inside that container comes from. If we are talking literal pottery, the owner of the vessel makes that decision. The container does not need to worry about it.
There was a worship song that had a bridge that was one line repeated, “I want more of You and less of me.” I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally, and ironically, sang those lyrics backwards. “I want more of me and less of you.” And if I’m honest, that can be the message my method for engaging the world can speak.
And if I’m not measuring myself against myself, I’m measuring my fullness against how I perceive others to be full. I’m measuring what God has deposited in me, not according to His fullness, but according to how I am guessing He has or hasn’t deposited in their life. But it’s toward His fullness the writer redirects. And it’s a prayer for the whole measure of His fullness. It’s not within myself, or about me, it’s not about him or her, just about the fullness of Christ.
But what the heck is even that?! Well, let’s talk more…
“In the spiritual journey you come to the day when you know you’re not just living your own life. You realize that Someone else is living in you and through you, and that you are part of a much Bigger Mystery.” – Richard Rohr
Have you seen that viral video of the little girl in the center of a hula hoop?
(Video Here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Tji8roGXsw)
She is surrounded by other kids hula hooping on their own, but she wasn’t quite big enough to weild her bright pink hula hoop. Her dad picked it up, and as she stands in the center, convinced she was fully hula hooping, her dad is twisting and maneuvering the ring as she moves.
This idea, the idea that God is moving all about our scenarios, or relationships, our journey while we stand centered in His activity, being a part of the movement and not at the same time. This father had to delight in his daughter’s joy just as much as she beamed with pride at her hula hooping skills. It wasn’t a moment of “him or her” but of “them.” This, for me, if what it is like to participate in the fullness of God.
The term “fullness” is not the same as “in replacement.” Reflecting back on the song mentioned above/earlier this week, God understands that “less of you and more of Him” actually equals more of you. More of the real you, the true you, the true self. Not the falsely projected, ego protected self that we tend to prop up and fixate on, but the real you. The intended you.
The word the writer of Ephesians uses for fullness is “pleroma,” Greek for this idea of divine fullness, the whole, the totality of divinity. Early mystics, gnostics and desert fathers wrote about the concept of pleroma, and it’s connection with Jesus and His formation. I can remember sitting in Divinity School, listening and reading about the concepts of the origins of Jesus’ both his humanity and His divinity. I can remember feeling overwhelmed, my mind spinning, “This is too big, too nebulous, too ethereal, too difficult to grasp.” And it can be. I don’t really know how to hula hoop. (this is both literal and applying my analogy.)
Just sit for a moment. When was the last time you were connected to something bigger than yourself? When did you feel like you were a part of something that was outside of yourself? What was the last moment you recognized that you really aren’t hula-hooping? That Someone else was spinning the ring and you were free to just dance?
It is so easy to trust and operate in our own power. It is so easy to think we know the things and understand all the things. When we are operating out of the fullness of God we can say to ourselves, “I am so tired, I just can’t.” and allow God space to speak back, “Good. I had it anyway.” How often have we said that coming to the end of ourselves is such a good place to be? Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Not my will, but yours.”
I’m not suggesting this is an easy concept, that we can just say, “Hey, I wanna be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.” and poof! You’re full. But I am suggesting that we attempt to empty ourselves enough to experience that fullness, that we release agendas and pride and assumptions and judgements, just long enough to hula hoop for at least a few minutes.