Since I have been in Abbeville, I have ridden an indoor and outdoor bike. When I first began riding my bike (after years of neglect), I remembered something someone said to me about muscle memory ... "Your body doesn't forget things like riding a bike ... it remembers." My outside bicycle is a Giant (brand) mountain bike and it is tall because I am a tall person. It took way too long for my body to "remember" how to stay balanced on the bicycle ... it was clumsy and clunky. My head said, "They told me my body would remember." But my body said, "Dude ... you haven't used these muscles in years." I found that the hardest thing was to keep my balance on the bicycle ... something that was natural and easy. Then, in a flash of realization, I realized that what was at issue here was the central or "core" muscles in my body. Over time I had not focused on this muscle system and it would take time, work and energy to get back into shape.
This morning, as I thought about our passage for the week, I was taken back to this re-learning experience. Paul is writing a prayer for/to the Ephesians. He wants them to grow and to have a solid place to go when life gets tough, unpredictable or dicey. He prays that "God will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong! (Ephesians 3:16a and 17)." We have a physical core, but here it says we have a spiritual core. It is where we are rooted. It is where we find strength. It is what we rely upon when we get off balance or the wind trys to blow us off our spiritual bicycle!
We need deep roots in these days of uncertainty. Because people, events and even our own feelings try to throw us off our stride. Over the last few months I have had more than a few people saying things about me, some of my close friends and even our church. About 99% of what I have heard is not true and is pure fabrication, but it still hurts if you give it traction in your heart. There have been events, like the upcoming General Conference, that have reminded me of the uncertainty of the structures we build as people. And my feelings have pulled me this way and that (it's what they do). Paul says that these things require deep roots. Our core strength is to remember the power and sufficiency of God's love which is wide, deep, high and long (Ephesians 3:18).
How do we get and keep this core strength? Paul doesn't say "dig deep into your own strength." Paul doesn't say, "follow your heart." Paul doesn't say, "get a self-help book." Paul says 1) trust God's mysterious plan (3:9, because having core strength in the darkness of this world is vital), 2) trust God's eternal purpose (3:11, if you keep on the path it is much easier to stay upright), 3) realize the power to stand comes from God living in you (3:16, because MY strength is totally inadequate), and 4) allow God's power to make you complete/whole (3:19, because God is working in/through you by His Spirit).
When I started back riding the bike, it took repetition, work, failure, persistence and practice to ride with strength and balance. I had to develop and work those core muscles. It is the same with what God wants to give you. God wants you to have a grasp of God's plan, God's purpose, God's power and the wholeness that comes with knowing God. But you will need to study, grow, apply what God gives you ... core muscles won't get stronger without hard work. So ... "May your roots grow down deep into God's love and keep you strong!" Randy