By SUSAN E. RICHARDSON
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God,” (Ephesians 3:16).
My former counselor, Carol, once asked me to study the first three chapters in Ephesians. As I did so, a particular phrase caught my attention. The English Standard Version of this Scripture says, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 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.” (emphasis mine)
As a gardener, the tree-like nature of the description made me stop to think. Turning to Strong’s Concordance for the original meaning added more understanding for me. The Greek word for rooted is rhizoo. The similarity to biological terms like rhizomes helped me see tendrils or fibers reaching into earth, just as tree roots penetrate the ground.
That led me to the word translated grounded, which means, “to lay a basis.” Perhaps you can also see the picture of roots growing into soil, forming a firm foundation. According to Ephesians the very foundation of our lives should be love. The Lord doesn’t stick us just anywhere to grow, but places us in His love, where we can receive His strength. The physical image gave the verse a more concrete feel and helped me grasp the meaning more clearly.
To grow we have to trust the dirt God has planted us in: His love. When we’re still dealing with anger and questions, we stay stunted, fearing to root ourselves deeply in Him. Trust is both a choice and a process we walk through when we start asking the tough questions.
We also need to understand the way God lays out the process. The latter portion of the verse says, “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (emphasis mine) Being rooted in love comes first. Only after that has happened will you understand.
To my analytical mind, this seems backwards, but that’s how the verse reads. Once you are rooted and grounded in love, you have power, and that leads you to comprehend and then to know. I’d rather comprehend first and then decide to trust, but God doesn’t seem to set out the process that way.
So how do you ground yourself in something you don’t understand? The physical image helps. Does a tree understand soil? Does it comprehend what happens when its roots sink deeper and deeper in, providing nourishment? Nothing indicates that trees have anything like understanding or instinct. Growth is a function of their God-given design. Without being able to think or plan, they do what they need to grow.
Perhaps that is what God asks of us. Not to struggle to understand or try to comprehend with our mind, but simply to sink into His love as naturally as a tree’s roots grow into fertile soil. We can choose to relax our grip on understanding and allow ourselves to grow into Him.
The closing prayer comes straight out of my journal after my study.
Lord, I’m not sure I understand this. There’s that word again: understand. It’s so natural for me to try to use my mind. You did create me like that. Help me now to understand the call that goes beyond my mind into my heart. Show me how I can be rooted and grounded in love. I’m not sure what it means or how to do it, but I do see that it’s the direction to which I’m called.