So I confess, I need to spend a great deal of time in the book of Ephesians. I say I "need" to because, if there is only one book that can keep me from becoming a tied-up knot of emotion, it is Ephesians. I need it like my two (and a half-almost-three) year old still needs her pacifier (there you have it, I AM a terrible mom), like my husband needs time alone. I NEED the book of Ephesians to keep me asleep at night, to make me think straight, to get me through the day. Some days more than others.
The secret power that Ephesians has over me? Terrifying, impossible, unreasonable instructions for human relationships.
Can anything in the Christian life be more of a challenge? Is there any call to following Christ that involves greater risk, greater discomfort, greater sacrifice . . . than this simple, irritating, inescapable call to love each other? Nothing goes more against our nature, nothing requires more wonder-working power. To be true, and vulnerable. To forgive, and be forgiven. To care for others needs, and expose our own. It is too much. In our culture of very few martyrs, very little persecution, I wonder if this is it . . . if this area of loving isn't our high calling, our painful death.
Nowhere but in the Body of Christ could this impossibility be required. We, who alone have been given a tangible definition of forgiveness. Who alone, in all the world, have been plunged into immeasurable Grace. Who have been given, not only the example of forgiveness, but the Power of Christ in us to forgive. And yet we manage to show the world no better way. We're still choking up gnats and swallowing camels. Of which I am the worst.
This is why I crawl back to Ephesians on a regular basis. Familiar words, undo me. I have no choice, in the presence of such a call, but to surrender . . . to ask Christ, again, to do in me what I am incapable of doing myself. Again, and again, and again.
Because really, there is no other way to do it. I was thinking this morning about the verse, "He will show me the path of life, in His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand are pleasures forevermore." . . . in His Word, He has given us the tools for coping with life. Without these tools, we have no hope. Bitterness like a plague eventually will consume us. The reality of holding grudges is that they take a death-grip hold on us; we carry them everywhere we go, and it is impossible to be free, to fully enjoy life. We are really only half alive. But when we follow His path for life, obey His instructions for loving and living, it is right there all around us: abounding joy, and pleasure, and abundant life. Here and now.
This is a quote that I hang onto:
"Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it. Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it. Bitterness sours life; love sweetens it. Bitterness sickens life; love heals it. Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eyes."
-- Harry Emerson Fosdick