God’s love is like an endless ocean, with no bottom or shores (Thank you, Jonathan Helser!) Our problem, as finite beings, is that we can only understand God in finite terms. When we say things like “endless ocean” we have no mental grid for anything actually bottomless or fathomless, so we must quantify it in our minds.
And when we quantify God’s love in our minds, we still only have a minute grasp of His actual love. We even run the danger of making God’s love common, throwing these words around, turning His love into conditional and limited human love in our thinking. Or worse, we create doctrines that do nothing more than turn an infinite God into our finite image.
But the reverse should be the case because this imagery is how God uses tangible and knowable things, like His creation and human language, in order to interact with us–not to actually describe Himself as He really is, but to motivate us and to bring us from glory to glory (2 Cor.3:18).
We need to let God take our minds and shape them, stretch them, and transform them into the mind of Christ (See 1 Cor.2:9-16). Even though it’s impossible to fully know God as He actually is, this “pulling us deeper” allows us to go outside our human knowing into His.
I shared the process how we actually do this, using the analogy of the ocean as God’s love and a faucet being our heart, in a post titled, “Everything with God comes through receiving.”
Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329-390), considered the “Father of Theology” in the patristic period of the early church, tried to explain the way we comprehend an incomprehensible God and how this creates wonder and a longer for more in his work, Orations 38. Here is an excerpt:
“He [God] contains all of existence in himself without beginning or end, like an endless, boundless ocean of being. He extends beyond our notions of time and nature, and is outlined by the mind alone, but only very dimly and in a limited way–not by the things that represent Him completely, but by the things that are peripheral to him….As he does this, it seems to me, so that to the extent that the Divine can be comprehended it may draw us unto itself–for what is completely incomprehensible is also beyond hope, beyond attainment; and that to the extent that it is beyond our comprehension it might stir up our wonder, and through wonder might be yearned for all the more….” (38.7)
Gregory is explaining the paradoxical nature of knowing an unknowable God and how it is intended to draw us deeper into Him. As the song goes, the more we seek Him, the more we find Him! The more He satisfies our heart, the more our heart hungers for more of Him.
Beloved, His love is not just vast and deep, it’s beyond human comprehension; yet it’s within our reach–it’s tangible, touchable, and definitely experiential. We have seen this love in the face of Jesus Christ. We experience this love by His indwelling Spirit.
The patristic fathers called this the process of divination, or theosis. We would simply call it becoming more like Christ.
To know God is to know this love (1 John 4:7-8). It cannot be intellectually grasped, or adequately put into words. It must be lived out in intimate communion with the Spirit, abiding in and being embraced by the love of the Father through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor.13:14).
As Gregory of Nazianzus stated, we only touch the peripheral of understanding God’s love with human descriptions like endless ocean, fathomless, or boundless. So, again, God must take us progressively deeper, beyond our human knowing into His divine knowing. His love must be embraced to be truly understood, yet in this age, and even in the ages to come, we will still be going deeper, and still only be doing nothing more than touching the hem of His garment.
In this light, I want to share a song that our worship pastor, Levi Blackburn, has recently been leading us in at our local church. It’s the Hillsong Young & Free song, “Sinking Deep.” As you listen to this beautiful song, let this God of love pull you deeper into His love. Let it not only wash over you and bring refreshing and rest, but also transport you higher, into greater glory, transforming you as His Spirit touches the deepest part of your soul.
You are SO loved!
Written by Aodhan King | Joel Davies
© 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Standing here in Your presence
In a grace so relentless
I am won by perfect love
Wrapped within the arms of heaven
In a peace that lasts forever
Sinking deep in mercy’s sea
I’m wide awake drawing close
Stirred by grace and all my heart is Yours
All fear removed
I breathe You in I lean into Your love
Oh Your love
When I’m lost You pursue me
Lift my head to see Your glory
Lord of all so beautiful
Here in You I find shelter
Captivated by the splendour of Your face
My secret place
Your love so deep is washing over me
Your face is all I seek You are my ev’rything
Jesus Christ You are my one desire
Lord hear my only cry to know You all my life
CCLI Song # 6605236