Life Abundant?

Editor’s note: The posts you’ll read this month will all center around the word “perissos” as found in Ephesians 3:20 and John 10:10. In the future, we’ll offer a greater variety and breadth of scripture, but we wanted to explore some of the depths of these two passages first.

Courtesy geograph.org.uk

Courtesy geograph.org.uk

John 10:7-13 New International Version (NIV)

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a]They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Growing up, I embraced John 10:10 as a theme verse. An anthem, if you will. Abundant life sounded amazing. More of everything, right? Sign me up for a life overflowing with blessings.

As the years went by, I became acquainted with what more means. What abundance really is. And I found that I was much more comfortable defining my life in terms of what I did not have at any given moment: a job, a husband, children, a six-figure book deal that would pay off my student loans and relaunch me into another career. All the while, real life was happening around me in abundance, but I would have chosen to opt out of much of what that looked like: years of singleness (that allowed me to develop rich friendships). A God who was outgrowing the boundaries I placed on him (and showing me who he was through grace). A year of hoping for returned affections (and growing a foundation of solid trust prior to marriage). Living paycheck to paycheck (and finding where my real security lies).

After I got married and had kids, I figured I had reached a plateau of sorts; a place to settle in. As we drove to the ultrasound that would tell us the sex of our second son, I turned to my husband and said, “Our last big surprise, right?” Wrong. I have found nothing (so far) as abundantly terrifying, difficult, wonderful, thrilling, and faith-testing than being a parent. Our older son blazed a trail full of surgeries, diagnoses, and challenges that we are still in the thick of, and uncertainty is a constant byword. But I’m finding that, just as single life in New York taught me, struggle is not a sign I’m in the wrong place; rather, it is an invitation to a deeper life, and a deeper experience of God’s love.

This is easy to write and hard to live. Middle-of-the-night wakeups and unpredictable stomach bugs are challenges enough, but when you throw in ceaseless therapy appointments and no-end-in-sight doctor visits, life can feel more pock-marked than full. Did I mention we’ve been potty-training? For seven months?

“If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. “–C.S. Lewis

When Jesus called himself the gate, I assumed he led to greener pastures and smoother sailing. When he referred to thieves and robbers, I assumed he was in the business of giving—what I wanted. When he mentioned saving, I thought he’d rescue me from hard times. I had a sharply defined idea of what a good shepherd looked like.

I was wrong. He is so much more.

The gifts I open these days don’t come in fancy wrapping, neatly-tied bows, or with receipts in order to return them. They are often buried within dirty diapers, on whiny car rides, or at the end of the longest days. And while I am tempted to choose martyrdom, I am being gently led to surrender instead. To a grace that will stop at nothing to never let me go, a grace that is unyielding and uncompromising in its abundance. Being held like this, it can feel confining and uncomfortable. But being loved like this? It is everything. It is abundant.

Written by Stephanie Phillips

Stephanie Phillips

Stephanie Phillips is a former Southern belle and recovering fundamentalist who was exiled to New York City for five years to think about what she’d done. After a widening of life experience and becoming reacquainted with grace, she now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two young boys, where she practices pediatric dentistry just often enough that it helps pay her Netflix bill and allows time to write her blog (plansinpencil.com) and contribute to her favorite websites (thewheelhousereview.com, mbird.com, bodypoliticblog.org).

About Stephanie Phillips

Stephanie Phillips is a former Southern belle and recovering fundamentalist who was exiled to New York City for five years to think about what she’d done. After a widening of life experience and becoming reacquainted with grace, she now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two young boys, where she practices pediatric dentistry just often enough that it helps pay her Netflix bill and allows time to write her blog (plansinpencil.com) and contribute to her favorite websites (thewheelhousereview.com, mbird.com, bodypoliticblog.org).

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