Filling Up

I have been doing good reading lately and came across this great insight from Bernard of Clairvaux, quoted in Richard Foster’s book Prayer:

“If you are wise therefore you will show yourself a reservoir and not a canal. For a canal pours out as fast as it takes in; but a reservoir waits till it is full before it over flows, and so communicates its surplus…We have all too few such reservoirs in the Church at present, thought we have canals in plenty.”

Barrage 3

I thought back to this image of a reservoir as I was reading in Ephesians this morning, from chapter 3:18-19 where Paul prays “[that you] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” What a great image for this prayer that we will know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we will be filled with what we cannot possibly contain!

I was struck by the beginning of this passage too – that Paul prays for strength. What kind of strength is needed to receive love? What kind of love needs strength to be received? To begin, it is worth clarifying that this strength comes from the Holy Spirit – verse 16 makes that clear – so this strength does not come from our own efforts or merit, but I think it’s interesting that God’s Spirit needs to strengthen us so that we can receive more of his love, so that our experience of his acceptance and forgiveness and affection and restoration not only provide what we need to love him back and to love our neighbours, but it also becomes an ongoing source of strength, a reservoir.

I began Sarah Bessey‘s e-book My Practices of Mothering (which I got for free by signing up for her newsletter), and the first chapter speaks of abiding. Branches do not take what they need from the vine and then drop off, they abide; they receive, they grow, they produce fruit as a result of their ongoing connection, involvement, reliance on the vine. In the same way, I must break my habit of coming to God for rest, peace, love, joy and then running off to take care of my life. This applies to motherhood, to ministry, to being a human being.

This song (and so many others by Audrey Assad) has been a helpful piece for me as I work on learning this new way, deepening my roots and receiving God’s love without rushing to spill it out.

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