I think one of the many things that warmed my heart the most over this last weekend when our kids came home for a visit, was all the personal attention they gave to Piper! Each of the kids spent time talking one on one with her, some sang songs to her, some told stories of their favorite experiences with her when they were young, others read to her and all spent time just holding her hand and sitting quietly by her side.
Piper was always a ‘hands on person’ who didn’t just talk about things but jumped in with both feet and did them! Whether it was a homeschool project on the constellations, an art project, a walk around the block or a game of foursquare on our driveway, she loved to be right in the middle of the action. It wouldn’t surprise me if the term “leading by example” was coined by someone who knew her! So for me to hear all the stories about how her interactions with others helped to shape or enhance their lives… well, let’s just say that it fills me with joy!
One of the most difficult things that I have had to swallow with the onset of Alzheimer’s in her is the pain within me when I see people who have known Piper… folks that she has personally gone out of her way to minister to… ignore her when they are in her presence, and seemingly forget about her when they are away from her. And on the other hand, it blesses me to the point of tears to see others go out of their way to make physical and emotional contact with her.
I believe that is one of the reasons that the paraphrase of Ephesians 3:17-20 in The Message Bible excites me so much! It gives us a vivid picture of what it really takes to walk in Christ’s love by boldly explaining that having a firm foundation in love gives us the ability to “take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love (and) reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! (and) Rise to the heights!” and by doing so, “Live full lives full of the fullness of God.”
Then, when we are actively involved and saturated in Christ’s love, “God is able to do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”
You see… All those blessing come through and are God’s natural response to us actively living in Christ’s love in our daily activities of life. Notice that the words that precede the conversation about knowing the breadth, the length, the depths and the heights of Christ’s love are all ACTION words! In order to know and experience this kind of love we are told to REACH OUT, to TEST, to PLUMB and to RISE.
As I studied this verse over the last week or so I discovered that each of these actions cause us to make a decision to go beyond our comfort zones. To go beyond the limits of our natural stretch or physical reach. I have found that when I stretch myself beyond what I used to think were my limits that the Lord brings me into new and formally uncharted frontiers of my faith!
On Saturday night as our family sat around the dining room table after dinner chatting away, the subject turned to Piper’s skills on the piano. When I mentioned how much I loved to watch her tiny hands flying across the keys, one of the kids mentioned that her Mom definitely had the ability to stretch her fingers way beyond her natural reach in order to hit some of the notes that she was able to play.
To most of us in the family, stretching across the keys to hit those notes seemed rather impossible, but Piper had been practicing for years and that stretch was no longer difficult for her. Kind of like everything else in her life… She had no problem whatsoever stretching out of her comfort zone to try something new, to minister to someone that nobody else wanted to, and to make everyone feel welcomed and comfortable wherever she went.
I think Piper had that ability because she was always confident in her intimate experiential knowledge of how much her Papa God loved her… so to share that love was easy for her. I also think that the reason some folks aren’t comfortable around her today is because they have their eyes more on themselves and their needs than they do in reaching out to minister to her in her time of need. They don’t seem to know how special they really are in God’s eyes which I believe makes it awful tough to stretch beyond their own comfort zones to bless others.
Hummm… is that too direct of a statement? Well, weigh it out for yourself and see where you stand when it comes to walking in the fullness of God by reaching out, testing, plumbing and rising within the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. You know, throughout this adventure in faith that Piper and I have been walking for quite a few years now, I have known some folks who say a lot of very nice and loving words to us but… that’s about as far as it goes because there has been a very noticeable lack of physical ACTION to go along with those words… and I have come to learn that these are the folks that I cannot depend on when the rubber hits the road!
The loving folks that I have come to depend on are the ones who have physically reached out to us and put aside their own discomfort with the situation as they’ve tested their own abilities, plumbed the depths of their love for Piper and I, and in doing so have risen to new heights in Christ’s love. Where are you in your personal experience of Christ’s love today?
Our fantastic weather is continuing out here, so we’ll be outdoors a lot! Have a great weekend and as you do, keep asking yourselves… “How am I expecting to stretch myself into new frontiers of Christ’s love today?”