God’s Love For You Burns With a Brightness Beyond Understanding

‘May you have the power to understand... how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.’ (Ephesians 3:18-19)

Evgraf Semenovich Sorokin, “Crucifixion”, 1873
Evgraf Semenovich Sorokin, “Crucifixion”, 1873 (photo: Public Domain / Public Domain)

‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.’ (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

As a child, I was afraid of the dark. Every night I’d give my parents each a good night kiss and then gravely remind them to “leave the light and the door open.” (This was before I became a stickler for grammar rules.)  Once I was in bed, I could fall asleep only if I were able to see the faint glow of the kitchen light and hear my parents’ muffled voices mingling with the city sounds outside my window.

One night I headed to bed early with a stuffy nose and a fever. My mom, who was a nurturer of the first order, fretted over me. Did I need another pillow? Was I thirsty? Could she bring me anything?

Yes, she could bring me something, I told her. I wanted my little wagon driver.

It was 1965, and cowboy toys were still riding a crest of popularity that had begun in the radio era. My older brother and I were possessive of our set of finely-detailed Wild West figurines made of putty-colored rubber. The wagon driver figurine was my favorite because of its sitting posture and its hands molded into a reins-gripping position. With a well-placed prop or two, I could manage to seat the figurine on the edge of a table, and then thread a piece of packing string “rein” through its curled fingers.

On that particular night, my mom brought the wagon driver and placed it on my pillow. In my febrile state, I had neither the strength nor the patience to position the figurine on the nightstand, so I stuck it haphazardly on the nightstand lamp with the lamp harp between its legs. 

The kitchen light was casting a warm glow in the hallway, my mom was fussing nearby with the vaporizer and the Vicks, and my little wagon driver was standing — or rather, balancing — sentinel. I should have been ready to sleep, but instead, I peevishly made a demand: I wanted the nightstand lamp to be left on throughout the night.

My mom, who was not only a first-order nurturer but also a first-order softie, readily agreed. Assured that my bedroom wouldn’t be scarily dark if congestion jarred me into wakefulness, I drifted off to sleep. When morning came, the nightstand lamp was indeed still on. Reaching for my little wagon driver, who had faithfully kept watch, I was shocked to find that it had not come through the night unscathed: its rubber back had begun to melt, and its buckskins were scorched. Long hours of exposure to a burning light bulb had left their mark. 

Had I had an understanding of thermal energy, I wouldn’t have subjected my little wagon driver to a full 40 watts of rubber-eating firepower. But I’d had no hands-on experience with incandescent bulbs. I’d never seen a Sesame Street segment on thermal energy. And I was 5 years old. My knowledge was decidedly limited.

And so is our knowledge of God. It is like the understanding of a child compared with that of an adult. In this world, we can only “know in part” the things that we will fully grasp in heaven (1 Corinthians 13:12). What we are now able to see of God is just the palest glow of his dazzling glory; what we can hear are merely the muffled words of him whose voice “flashes forth flames of fire.” (Psalm 29:7)  

Likewise, God’s love for us burns with a brightness that is beyond our understanding. Not until we have left behind the darkness of this world and awakened in eternity, will his light and his love be fully revealed to us.