Messy and Rooted

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. 

When I was younger and had more mainstream Christian credentials to my name (rule-following, youth-group membership, annual mission trips, 30-minute-minimum daily quiet time, perfect church attendance, etc etc etc), I aspired to one day write a devotional book. When I think back to that period of time in my life–the pre-rebellion, pre-grace period–I can only imagine what such a devotional would have looked like. First of all, it would have had a precious title, like Snacks with Jesus. The front cover would have featured a cozy illustration–probably an afghan thrown over a wicker couch alongside a steaming mug of decaf. And inside? Well, that would have been the real treat: pithy entries full of Christian cliches and, most horrifically, bad theology and a total misunderstanding of Scripture based on my own narrow lens.

roots

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

My revised, current version of that devotional would never be sold at Lifeway. First of all, the title would be offensive: something like, What the Hell, Jesus? The cover art would illustrate my older son melting down alongside the baby crying while my husband tries to escape through a window and I chug wine from the bottle. There would almost certainly be excrement somewhere. And the entries themselves would be considered irreverent at best: no neat, tied-with-a-bow summarizations of God but more of a crying out to him followed by a tentative grasp at hope.

You know, kind of like the Psalms?

What I want to do here, as a contributor to this devotional blog, is to convey the journey to and through grace that I experience daily: the messiness of it, the realness of it, the unpredictability of it. God and his love are so much bigger than I ever allowed them to be when I confined them both within the walls of a building, the parameters of a trip, or the interpretations of my own preference-based, limited understanding of his Word. As my counselor once said, we’re not to read the Bible, but let it read us. Which is why I lug a commentary onto the couch with me these days for my own sit-downs with Jesus (running time–anywhere between 2 and 20 minutes on a good day). I (try to) keep myself open to a God who appears to brutally interrupt my plans, upend my need for perfect order, and throw wrenches in my daily schedule–all while calling it love.

So let’s talk Ephesians 3:16-20, specifically by comparing how Former Me and Revised Me would read it.

Former Me loved this passage because it basically guaranteed riches and strength. I mean come on–they’re right there in the verses! Now I see that riches refer to his bottomless grace and forgiveness, and that strength is imparted to me while I remain in him–not as a ticket for independence from him. Being rooted and established in love sounded good to Former Me because love clearly meant I would be treated well, i.e., according to my specifications. Revised Me understands that being rooted sometimes means not being able to move from where I am, or escape what’s happening–and that this can be an act of deliverance. Then we have the specs on God’s love, which Former Me liked because–again–it showed that he would always be really nice to me. Now I know that, when something is really deep, I just might get plunged into it and feel like I’m drowning when I’m actually being loved perfectly. Former Me liked the idea of being full of God because it made me sound outwardly holy and put-together. Revised Me knows that being full of God often leaves me a bleeding, quivering mess–I mean, hello–remember Jesus in Gethsemane?

And finally we have the conclusion: “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  I hooked onto this verse and proceeded to imagine all the things God could do for me, then ask for them in the way a Mob boss “asks” for favors from his underlings. We had an implied deal, I thought: I obey the Big 10, God keeps my path clear. In asking/expecting after imagining, I was forgetting one of the most important words in that verse: more. Which is exactly what he’s done in my life–a whole lot of more. So many times I’ve been tempted (and given in) to see it as other or less than, but I can’t escape that everything he’s designed for me keeps leading me back to the more that is him; that is his grace. It’s not what I would have chosen, and it’s not what I imagined. It’s harder, and fuller, and different…exceedingly, abundantly more.

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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