Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2)
I returned from a trip once to discover one of my houseplants drooping over the sides of a clay pot on a shelf in the corner. Somehow “Violet” had been overlooked by the friend who watered the rest of the plants, brought the mail in and let the dog out. I poured water into the poor dry pot, then sorted through the pile of envelopes on the table. I turned around when I heard the sound of dripping on the floor. The water I had just poured into poor Violet flowed over the edge of the shelf and onto the floor leaving a grey puddle on the carpet. In her neglected state her desiccated soil lacked the ability to absorb anything. Her thirsty roots could not take hold of the water meant for her and instead it poured out the bottom.
Some people are like that. You can encourage and give and “pour into them” over and over, and they still droop — perpetually, it would seem. Kind words, generous deeds, encouraging actions –all seem to merely puddle on the floor, beneath them. Yet they crave more.
I confess I’m like that sometimes. I’m not just talking about difficulty receiving compliments, but about receiving the love God pours out on me. Sometimes it seems too good to be true and I’m sure that, given my history, He surely must be sick and tired of me, at least part of the time. I find it hard to receive.
I’ve been meditating on Ephesians 3 lately. This part caught my attention: “May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love that you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];”
Paul’s prayer was that folks would have the power and strength to apprehend and grasp God’s love. It seems that being the recipient of God’s generous goodness requires strength. It requires exertion to hold it and keep it before it moves on.
When Violet couldn’t retain moisture I took her pot from the shelf and set it in a bowl of water for a couple of days until the soil drew it up and became saturated. In other words, she needed to soak in abundance for a while.
John addressed the familiar greeting and prayer for physical prosperity to his friend, Gaius. He said he knew Gaius’ soul already prospered because he walked in truth. He soaked in it.
Many of us lack prosperous souls because we have we have histories of feeling neglected. It’s hard to have your need for love met by parents raised by generations of parents who also suffered from love deficits. We have believed so many untruths, and been hurt or disappointed by so many people we ought to have been able to trust, that when the real thing comes along we don’t really believe it. We’ve been deceived by flattery before. We’ve had love withheld when we failed to measure up. We’ve been passed by as blessings and approval went to others. Neglect is so common, in fact, that religion has taught for centuries that we have to merit the merits of Christ. We assume love is meant for someone else but, as the song says, “not for me.” Religion always tries to qualify definitions of grace with a “yeah, but…”
Yesterday I listened to Bach’s setting of Mary’s prophetic song in Luke 1. One of my favourite songs of all times is Mary’s humble declaration, as J.B. Phillips translated it: “He has deigned to notice me.” (“Quia respexit humilitatem” in Bach’s version.) Mary was most blessed among women because she had the inner strength to accept and carry the ultimate expression of God’s love — His Son. Her response was one of praise.
Then Mary said, “My heart is overflowing with praise of my Lord, my soul is full of joy in God my Saviour, for he has deigned to notice me, his humble servant and, after this, all the people who ever shall be will call me the happiest of women! The one who can do all things has done great things for me—oh, holy is his Name! Truly, his mercy rests on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has swept away the high and mighty. He has set kings down from their thrones and lifted up the humble. He has satisfied the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands. Yes, he has helped Israel, his child: he has remembered the mercy that he promised to our forefathers, to Abraham and his sons for evermore!” Luke 1:46-55
We will never be the vessels God designed us to be if we neglect to send our roots down deep into His love and learn to drink deeply. A productive life of beauty, pleasant fragrance, and good fruit is entirely dependent on learning to soak up God’s love, on responding to his attention and believing and knowing in an intensely intimate way that His love is not conditional or manipulative. His Love is Truth. Without his love flowing through every fiber of our being we droop. We starve in the midst of abundance.
When God said,”Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God,” in the middle of a Psalm about battle, he used the same word that described Adam’s relationship with Eve -an intimate, profound, restful knowledge.
A prosperous soul is a soul that knows it is deeply loved and cherished and can rest in that love. Everything else is poverty.
May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].
May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,
That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];
[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!
Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—
To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it). (Ephesians 3:16-21 Amplified version)
As we enter a new year, my prayer for you is that you may prosper in all things and be in health -as your soul prospers. A blessed and prosperous New Year to you!
God is love. He loves you and sent His Son for you. Let that soak in for a while.