The longest distance in the world is the eighteen inches from the head to the heart.
Until our personal revelation of the love of God, we limp as Christians, impelled by duty, not desire, not love.
But we really, really change in the deep structure of our being, when we realize what Karl Barth described as the most important insight in the millions of theological words he published—God loves me.
When, as Paul prayed for the Ephesians, we have “the power, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge,” (Eph 3:17-19) it’s transformational. Paul says, mysteriously, that once we know this, we will be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
I find myself able more able to endure disappointment, sadness, frustration, boredom, uncertainty, the possibility of failure, and the reality of failure (!) when I lean into the certain knowledge of the love of God for me.
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Both I and my younger sister (Ph.D. in Immunology from Notre Dame University, post-doc and Cancer research at Sloan Kettering, now a partner in a Wall Street investment firm specialising in bio-tech) were raised with unrealistically high expectations. Being amazing was a minimum requirement.
After colliding with the love of God, I frequently remind myself, “Anita, you don’t have to be amazing.” A burden drops off my shoulders. I can just be myself.
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The revelation of the love of God comes in the oddest moments. I sometimes look around a messy room, and realise I am failing in an ideal I set for myself, orderliness, and then instead of feeling self-condemned, I relax into the realisation that God loves me.
And from that, energy comes to clean the darn thing up.
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I couldn’t blog well if I didn’t know in my bones that God loves me. For a good blog is an honest blog, and you cannot be honest if you fear criticism.
For in blogging, you reveal yourself—and, inevitably, reveal more than you realize. You may even reveal more than you consciously know about yourself. And what you reveal can be read wrong for people don’t read with their eyes alone: they read with their baggage.
And people can read you wrong, can decide they hate or envy you, can use things you’ve written to hurt you, or manipulate you, or wrongly label you. Oh, what an unsafe enterprise honest spiritual blogging is, and who would ever embark upon it if they did not know in their bones that God loved them?
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After colliding with the love of God, I felt worries waft away like autumn leaves in the wind.
I feel relatively at peace about my relative lack of achievement, and hopeful for the future. I barely worry about sickness, money or retirement planning. I quickly convert any worries about my children to prayer. I try to convert my worries about my blog and nascent career to a strategy session in prayer.
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My seminal experience of the knowledge of the love of God rooting itself in my heart and spirit happened in May 2010 during a International Leader’s School of Ministry led by John Arnott during which I learned soaking prayer. Though at a healing service the previous month, when I had requested healing from adrenal fatigue, the vicar prayed that I receive a revelation of divine love. And just as I had dreamed that night, I felt electricity, honey, surge through my brain, and in retrospect, I see I am different.
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While encountering the love of God has been transformational for me, it’s harder to pinpoint how to experience it.
My best shot:
1) Pray to.
“Pray that you 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, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3: 17-19)
And perhaps ask people to pray for you to receive this revelation of the love of God.
2 Hang out with God, just resting with him. Let prayer move beyond lists and agendas to just hanging out with God, soaking in his presence.
Here’s a quote from Brennan Manning, whose experience, interestingly, was like mine.
“My personal experience of the relentless tenderness of God came not from exegetes, theologians and spiritual writers, but from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching him to help me understand with my head and heart his written Word. Sheer scholarship alone cannot reveal to us the Gospel of grace.” (The Ragamuffin Gospel)
Have you had a revelation of the love of God? What is the best way to experience the love of God, not intellectually, but emotionally, in the depths of your being?