Friday, June 22, 2012

Do You Anthropomorphize God?

I was chopping homegrown tomatoes for a summer dinner, and halfway between kitchen counter and open dining space, my host paused to ask: “Do you anthropomorphize God?” 

God Inviting Christ to Sit on His Right Hand
detail, Pieter de Grebber, 1645, Flanders
Anthropomorphize God? Of course I knew what the term meant. I have graduate degrees in lit, taught freshman writing at three universities. Anthropomorphize: to ascribe human attributes to something not human. Still ...

“I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

“I’m wondering – did you need a father so badly that you anthropomorphized God as your father?”

Ah. Well yes, I’ve written in this blog about God as father, and about His fatherly presence in my life (Song for Our Father , The Lord is Near, The Paradox of Pain,  All Comfort ).  I gave a sermon in my church on the topic several years ago, and anyone who has spent much time with me has probably heard me talk, or pray, or wax vaguely philosophical about God as the only fully reliable, fully present, fully capable parent.

But no. I don’t anthropomorphize God, as I tried to explain while I tossed my salad.

“’Anthropomorphize’ suggests I’m the one ascribing attributes. I’d say, instead, that I’ve tried to take God’s self-revelation seriously. If He says He’s my father, I’ve tried to understand what that meant. If He says He’s going to treat me as His friend, I’ve tried to see what that looks like day to day.”

Our conversation went on, through a few of my stories of God’s engagement in my life and my questioner’s gentle certainty that what I considered dramatic intervention was in fact well-timed coincidence.

The question, of course, comes back to our view of what the Bible is, how we respond to it, and what our relationship is to God Himself.

If the Old and New Testaments are just collections of random stories, a disparate ensemble of theological conjecture, then sure, it’s all anthropomorphization, a projection of our own fears, hopes, frustrations, plastered on an imagined being.

If they’re a series of revelations, records of God’s interaction with humans across a span of time, then it’s something very different. Yes, God is described, and describes Himself, in sometimes human terms. If it’s His own revelation we’d be foolish to ignore those descriptions, yet also foolish to take them at face value. We communicate in words we understand, but those words often fall far short of realities beyond them.

When God speaks, through the prophets, of “forming” the earth, He’s describing a creative act, but even human creative acts are multilayered processes, occurring across time. If I take all I know about creativity and the creative process, the joy, the adventure, the invisible and visible work, the starts, stops, unfolding story, and ascribe that to God, I have only the faintest hint of God as creator.
Mourning Trinity - Throne of God, detail
Robert Campin, South Netherlands, 1445

When He speaks of His compassion, like a mother caring for her chicks, a shepherd watching his sheep, a father welcoming a wandering child, I may picture the best parent I know, the most welcoming, affirming, nurturing adult I can think of, and I’ve just caught a shadow of the love of God, the smallest glimpse of what His love might be.

When He speaks of His justice and describes Himself as a king who will rule justly, I can read that through the lens of my own experience of misused power and arrogant authority and hope I can somehow bribe Him to take my side. Or I can acknowledge that what I know of “right,” of true justice, of authority used on behalf of a kingdom of grace and goodness, is deeply flawed. I can set aside my small views of petty human power, recognize that what I believe of justice and goodness, is just a fraction of what God has in mind, and learn to trust a vision larger than my own.

No, I don’t anthropomorphize God. I don’t imagine Him like myself, or like any human I’ve known. I’d flip it around: I theomorphize myself. I try to imagine myself more like Him, try to imagine a world ruled by someone far wiser, far more gracious, far more compassionate than what I’ve seen.

When I was struggling to learn what a parent should be, I asked God to show me Himself as parent, to help me understand His patience, care, delight in me, and to help me show the same. It’s the work of a lifetime, but a joyful enterprise.

When I’ve struggled to respond to those who’ve used power to harm me, I’ve asked God to show me His own reconciling justice, and I’ve found strength to forgive, but also strength to stand firm for something beyond simple acquiescence. I catch glimpses of something beyond the hurtful back-and-forth of human power. God’s plan in this is much grander than I could describe, but I see bright glimpses, and rejoice.
God the Father, Pompeo Giralamo Batoni,
1779, Italy

David, king of Israel, “servant of the Lord,” worked hard to know God, and to become more like Him. He messed up royally along the way but continued in his pursuit of God, and in his passion to see God more clearly. Some of his songs describe God in human terms, some move past the human to a global, even cosmic vision. We start with what we know, but the reality is far beyond.

We can try to pull God back to our own terms, our own scale, our own human definitions, imagining He is on “our” side, imagining He endorses our platform, shares our agenda, wants exactly what we want.

Or we can ask God to help us grow past our own human limitations into something bigger, to make us participants in his all-encompassing justice, his gracious provision. We can try to make Him more like us, or ask to be made more like Him. I know which choice I'm praying for.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.
 (Psalm 36, a song of David, servant of the Lord) 
Please join the conversation. Your thoughts and experiences in this are welcome. Look for the "__ comments" link below to leave your comments. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Song for Our Father

I spent last weekend in the company of women. I went to my first League of Women Voters Convention, in DC, and was blown away by the smart, committed, passionate women I met there. I learned a ton, enjoyed the speakers, caucuses and conversations, and was deeply impressed by the army of women who work tirelessly to register and inform voters and do all they can to ensure elections are fair and accessible.

Under all the convention energy, though, I sensed an air of sadness. It came through in the photos of early suffragettes, and in the feisty “Caught in a Bad Romance: Womens’ Suffrage” video we watched during the final session. Why did it take so long for American women to achieve the vote? What happened to the Equal Rights Amendment? Why are there still so few women in elected office?

Late one evening, a new friend and I found ourselves talking about faith. She was explaining that she felt something – she wouldn’t call it God – when she was outdoors in nature, or when things seemed to fall into place in unexpected ways. She felt something like design – or intent. Something good and gracious.

But the word “God,” for her, is tied to patriarchy, male oppression, road blocks she sees friends face when seeking opportunity. The idea of God as father bothers her.

I’ve struggled myself with the concept of God as father. For me, "father" was never a happy word. My father and mother married way too young, had four kids too fast, and decided before I was two that parenthood wasn’t for either of them. They disappeared in opposite directions, and my three siblings and I landed with my father’s parents. So I was the kid without a father – one of the few I knew. I hated Father’s Day.

In some ways my grandfather became a father figure, but that didn’t really help. He was an angry man who hadn’t enjoyed his own four children, and wasn’t happy about four more. Just before I turned thirteen he sold the house we lived in and moved away by himself, leaving my grandmother to piece together a new life for herself and four teenage grandchildren.

I understand - on a very personal level - the women, and men, who object to the idea of God as father, who resist praying "Our Father." I struggled for years with the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father” was not a phrase that made me feel safe, or cared for, or loved, or wanted.

Yet to see God as vague amorphous entity, or to refer to an androgynous “mother/father” spirit, is to lose something central to the Christian faith: the possibility of redeemed relationship, not only with each other, but with the one who made us, knows us, loves us. While it might have been easier to let go of the idea of God as father, I found myself inwardly insistent on a verse I had found: "A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in his holy dwelling."  (Psalm 68:5)

As a teen struggling with the abandonment of both father and grandfather, I found myself convinced that “father to the fatherless” was more than an abstract idea, and that when Jesus told us to call his father “Abba,” he meant what he said: we were to consider God our daddy, the close, warm, loving father every fatherless child has watched and longed for from a distance.

In high school I started a kind of ongoing dialogue with God – more complaint than what I would have called prayer, although I believe it was prayer. Maybe more challenge than complaint: If you’re my father, you’ll help me avoid ridiculous mistakes. If you’re my father, you’ll help me know what to do. If you’re my father, you’ll provide the money I need for college.

I don’t have time to tell about the ways God did intervene in my life, the ways he led me, the ways he provided. As I asked him to be my father, he taught me what that meant.

Yes, I know that for some people the idea of God as father suggests that men are more important than women, that men are made in the image of God, while women are somehow different. Why use the word “God” at all, my friend wondered. Why not “life force” or “higher power”?

George Eastman House collection 1915
Language shapes our understanding, but at the same time, we can only use the words we have. As I tried to explain to my friend, God is more personal than a “life force,” more present than a “higher power.”

Picture the best dad you know – and imagine a dad closer. Picture the warmest father you’ve seen – and imagine a father who loves you more. God is beyond gender – not less than, but more than. Our language only gets us partway there.

Why are we told to call him father instead of mother? Here’s my theory: mothers are far more likely to be known to their children. Think about it- there is no child alive whose mother wasn’t present at the child’s birth. The father might have been nine months gone already, but the mother was there. It’s a simple biological fact.

But then picture patriarchal societies: in a household with multiple wives, each wife would have her own tent, or hut, or living quarters. The father’s space would be separate. It’s still that way in many parts of the world: mother and children living together, father’s quarters somewhere else.

In many cultures, fatherless children have less status, less protection, than children with fathers. And in any culture, at any time, fathers are more likely to be distant, absent, missing, than mothers.

So when Jesus tells us to call God “Abba,” or invites us into the close unity he has with his father, he’s not negating mothers.  Instead, he’s affirming our worth, all of us, fatherless children included, and offering us a relationship with God built on love and acceptance, not performance, perfection, fearful subjection to a harsh and distant father’s will. He's also demonstrating a shift in the way we understand power: God's power is not against us, but for us. His power is not there to force us into subjection, or to do us harm. Instead, amazingly, it's there to serve us, to aide us, to protect, comfort, heal.

Mary Ann Fatula wrote a helpful essay “On Calling God ‘Father’" back in 1986, drawing in part on the work of Diane Tennis and her book Is God the Only Reliable Father? (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985)  It’s still the best discussion of this I’ve found (if you have other suggestions, I'd love to hear them):
Diane Tennis . .  shows that a great wound of our society is exactly the absence of loving and reliable fathers. And so we women learn to take upon ourselves "enormous responsibility for the world," assuming the duties of both mother and father in the sacrificial role of "Inexhaustible Earth Mother." To reject God as our Father is thus to imprison ourselves even more deeply in damaging stereotypical roles by relegating the capacity for tenderness and faithful care to women alone. . .
Tennis concludes that our need as women and men for a faithful and caring father is too deep and ineradicable a component of our human meaning simply to abandon this symbol for God. On the contrary, we need to free it from distortions linking it with domination by drinking in the truth the Scriptures proclaim to us.
For the Father of Jesus knows and loves each one of us so intimately that every single hair on our head is counted (Mt. 10:30) . . .
These and other Gospel passages can only hint at the unbelievable tenderness which Jesus unveils to us in the one he calls "Father." But by recovering precisely this content of Jesus' own experience, we can open ourselves to the Father's extraordinary tenderness in our own lives and at the same time, as Tennis points out, hold out a "critique of patriarchal domination and violence within a male symbol." In this way the symbol itself can be used "to create a different human situation," a world in which women and men respect and relate to each other as equals.
Some ideas are too big to put into words. This, to me, is one. I babbled on to my friend a bit, aware that my brain was way past tired, that even at my best I couldn’t do “God as Father” justice, that my descriptions of God’s kindness and intimate comfort probably didn’t make much sense.
Don White, I Know What Love Is

When I stopped talking, she turned her laptop toward me.

“Watch this song.”

I watched it – if you have time, you might want to watch it too. The last stanza says it all.

Happy Father’s Day.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome. I'd especially love to hear about your experiences of God as Father, or leads to resources you've found helpful regarding this topic. Click on __ comments link below to see comments and post your own.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

What Do You Have that You Didn't Receive?

The Synchroblog topic this week is "What’s In Your Invisible Backpack?" a reference to Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 essay, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." McIntosh suggests ways that privilege shapes our daily lives, and gives examples of the  “unearned advantage and conferred dominance” enjoyed by white Americans.  She states:
“It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.”
The issue of meritocracy seems even more relevant today than it was in 1988. This question of privilege, and of meritocracy vs. plutocracy, is at the heart of the Occupy movement, and dominated the 2012 World Economic Forum summit in Davos in January.

How possible is it, in our current economy, for those without the privilege of family wealth to work their way from poverty to success?

According to a growing number of economists, it’s increasingly impossible. We’re warned that unless we’re in the top 1%, our children should expect less in the future than their parents. We already see this taking place, as so many recent college graduates look in vain for jobs that match their education or ability.

If middle class kids are struggling, what happens to the poor?

Last fall Forbes magazine published an article by Gene Marks, If I Were a Poor Black Kid.  Marks, a middle-class white man, offered ideas about opportunities available to poor, black, urban teens, with an airy sense of “success is always possible, you just need to work smart. Here’s how.”

The Marks article documents, with amusing, tragic clarity, the utter cluelessness of so many born to privilege. It misses the complex burdens of poverty and the amazing array of benefits lived, without awareness, by those given more than they choose to admit.

A quick sampling: “If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently.”

Starting when? Knowing how to read anything, at all, is a privilege easily missed by children who grow up in households without books, in homes with parents who can barely read. A friend of mine never made it to ninth grade: her mother was an addict, and her father died the summer she was thirteen. She now has two small children, already far behind. The kindergarten class her daughter attended this year had thirty children. All behind when they started. All behind as they finish.

Yes, reading is important. As are good grades. But knowing that is a gift, having the help, tools, exposure, ability to learn is a gift.

Here’s another of Mr. Mark’s points: “If I was a poor black kid I’d be using technology to research [private schools with scholarships] on the internet . . .  and making them know that I exist and that I get good grades and want to go to their school.”

That’s the voice of privilege speaking. Ignore the questionable grammar, and the obvious questions about assumed computer access and coaching on Internet research skills. Just focus on this embedded idea: “Let people know what you need, and no worries, it will happen.”

By the time a poor kid is four or five, she’s already learned a sad lesson of poverty: it doesn’t matter what she wants, it’s not happening, so why keep asking? For children in unstable households, unsafe neighborhoods, surrounded by unpredictable people, invisibility is an essential line of defense. The smarter the kid, the more likely the habit of disappearing into silence. And once a child has practiced invisibility long enough, the assured “make them know I exist” is beyond imagining.

Yes, there are some amazingly resilient kids, with high IQs and resourceful dedicated parents, who manage to climb out of poverty and find a way to move toward privilege. There are highly gifted people of color who learn to navigate the structures of power and attain the success their parents only dreamed of. There are strong, smart, determined women who get up every time they’re knocked over, start again every time they’re interrupted, and with steely resolve assert their right to speak.

But those brave, successful few are a small, shrinking percent. Statistically, the privilege gap is growing. As of 2009, the median wealth of white households was 20 times that of black households, 18 times that of Hispanic households, the largest gap in at least twenty five years. While more women than men are now finishing college and graduate programs, women working full time still earn only 77 percent of what men earn. While some of that wage gap can be attributed to choice of occupation, work experience, race, or union membership, fully forty percent is “unexplained” by any cause other than  unacknowledged male privilege.

Forbes posted links to some responses to the Marks article; I was struck by this thought, from Kelly Virelli’s “If I Were the Middle Class White Guy Gene Marks” (my own emphasis added):
“Now, it’s obvious that hard work, intelligence, and assistance from others are necessary to succeed. I grew up in a trailer in rural Alabama and I graduated from Stanford University. I am publishing this blog post at a start-up magazine that I founded with capital that I — along with my African-American husband, a Brown University graduate — saved from our wage earnings. We work hard and our families have always worked hard too (See slavery). The problem is that Marks seems to think it’s okay to require black kids to be “special” to “succeed.” I don’t.”
I've been spending the weekend at the National League of Women Voters Convention in Washington, DC, surrounded by very intelligent, impressively accomplished women. But the question echoes inside me: why did it take so long for women to get the vote? (1n the US, 1920.) Why are there still so few women in politics, or in CEO offices? (A record 3.4% in Fortune 500 companies.)

The voice of privilege controls the conversation about taxes, budgets, priorities, policy. Those struggling to survive rarely have the opportunity to speak out in their own defense, to question systems so complex even the experts lose track of the details, to ask why only "special" poor kids, children of color, middle-class girls, succeed to their full potential.

I wouldn’t wish poverty on anyone. Yet I’d challenge those like Gene Marks who offer simple solutions to complex problems to set aside assumptions and look for ways to see beyond the blinders imposed by privilege.

Live, shop, or work, if only for a short season, in a neighborhood where your color sets you outside the norm. Or join an organization run by a group other than your own (like those few brave men in the League of Women Voters) and see how it feels to be the odd man out. Befriend an unemployed single mom and learn to navigate the confusing web of inadequate assistance. Volunteer in an urban school and rethink what you know of opportunity. Offer long-term friendship to someone with less privilege and learn to listen carefully.

Those of us with education, access to technology, adequate income, “freedom of confident action,” can use that privilege to endorse the even greater privilege of the wealthy few, we can speak out for ourselves and our children, or we can insist on genuine equal opportunity for all, and a place at the table for those whose voices are least likely to be heard.

Shouldn’t nutrition assistance policy be shaped by those who know first hand the challenge of feeding a family in an urban environment with no car and no good store nearby?

Shouldn't discussion of policies regarding women’s health be led by women who have struggled with teen pregnancies, inadequate health care, medical conditions unique to women’s bodies?

What would happen if drug sentencing proposals were debated by those who have overcome addiction, watched drug sales on their own street corners, lived the day-to-day reality of drug-afflicted neighborhoods?

What we need most, in churches, schools, assembly halls, all the places where policies are formed, are leaders who understand the answer to that question the Apostle Paul asked a group of boastful men, blindly secure in their own privileged opinions: “What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Corinthians 4:7).

The answer?


Nothing at all.

Here is the list of links for the June Synchroblog, "What's In Your Invisible  Backpack?"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Learn-as-You-Go-Along Marriage

detail, Le Bateau Atelier
Claude Monet, 1876, France
Like the water
of a deep stream,
love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all,
or want it all.
In its abundance
it survives our thirst.

In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill,
and sleep,
while it flows
through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us,
except we keep returning to its rich waters

We enter,
willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.
   (Like The Water, Wendell Berry)

It’s wedding season. Yesterday we attended the lovely wedding of a young friend we’ve known since she was in middle school. Tomorrow will be our own anniversary. 

We married thirty-five years ago, on a bright June afternoon in an old Baptist church in Carmel, New York. Our friend Harry officiated, reading the service from a small black Book of Common Prayer. He had just recently been ordained, and was so nervous he accidentally turned two pages at once. If he hadn’t listened when I whispered to him that he’d skipped a page, we would have missed the marriage vows completely. 

I was twenty-one. I’d graduated from college just three weeks before and spent those weeks sewing my wedding gown and a bridesmaid’s dress for my friend’s wedding on Long Island the Saturday before. Whitney, the groom, handsome in grey cutaways, had just turned twenty-three, and had just that week found us a second floor apartment in a creaky old row house in West Philly. 

Looking back, I’d have to say I was clueless about marriage, love, adulthood, and a whole host of other things. The marriages in my own family had all ended sadly, as far back in the family tree as anyone could remember. I had thought maybe I’d put off marriage completely, yet there I was, promising to “love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live.”

We weren’t given much advice. Our premarital counseling consisted of an awkward dinner and an hour of stilted conversation at Harry’s dining room table, with his wife and small son down the hall. I’d read Scanzoni and Hardesty’s All We’re Meant to Be, so I had some vague idea of equality in marriage, but we’d also been hearing reverberations from Bill Gothard’s Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts, which seemed to me to treat wives as permanent teenagers. A Gothard enthusiast told me, not long after the wedding: “You were under your grandmother’s umbrella. Now you’re under your husband’s. Remember that.” Living under an umbrella seemed a bit constraining. I still shudder when I think of the patronizing tone, and the limiting, constricted image. 

Whitney had grown up in a well-ordered home where the governing principle seemed to be “learn as you go along what pleases the Lord,” the Living Bible rephrasing of Ephesians 5:10. His parents were steeped in scripture, interested in following the lead of the Holy Spirit, and not very concerned about defined gender roles. In points of conflict or disagreement, their default mode seemed to be prayer, then acquiescence, with a shared resolve to learn along the way what God had to teach them. I watched, intrigued, as they navigated conflicts, changes, crises, with surprising harmony and good grace. They’re still learning as they go along, sixty years into marriage, still good friends and partners.

Is theirs a complementarian marriage? Egalitarian? I’m not sure they ever gave it much thought. In fact, refreshingly, the idea of “who is in charge” doesn’t seem to be much of an issue: God is in charge, and together they look at the example of Jesus, ask for wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit, consult others, including my husband and me, and wait for a sense of unity and peace. 

We’ve followed that same model through grad school, job changes, financial constraints, selling and buying of houses, moves from Philly to Virginia and back to the Philadelphia suburbs. We’ve parented three children, hosted one wedding, given shelter, over the years, to a mix of extended family, friends in transition, cats, hamsters, fish, birds, a legendary lizard and one very stubborn beagle. 

We’re never talked much about “men’s jobs” or “a woman’s place.” Whoever is nearest the baby changes the diaper. Whoever has the skill or interest does the job that needs to be done. I helped our kids edit their school papers: I was a writing teacher, so that made sense. He taught them golf and basketball: he played both in college, so that made sense. I remodeled our bathrooms, removing and installing toilets and sinks, something I learned helping rehab a house the fall I was sixteen.  He makes great omelets, something he learned as a short-order chef in high school. 

He tells better bedtime stories than I do: his imagination is wonderfully random, and endlessly amusing. But I do a better job reading at bedtime: he’s more apt to fall asleep mid-sentence. For the most part, I taught our kids to swim; I taught swimming at camps for years, and had more time with them in the neighborhood pool. For the most part, he taught them how to drive; he thought it would be a fun Sunday afternoon activity, and he’s far better at parallel parking than I am.

Yes, he mows the lawn, operates the power tools, and is more likely to be the one lugging heavy furniture up and down stairs. But he cried as much as I did when we left each child at college for the first time. Which proves not a whole lot – except that we both love our kids, and would love to keep them nearby forever.

But we also want them to learn, and grow, and find their way to the lives God has for each of them. There’s no umbrella here for them to stay under. We told each one, when we said goodbye at college, and at other transition points along the way: “We trust what God is doing in you.” In each that’s different. In each it’s a joy to watch.

They aren’t here to please us, make us look good, make us happy. And we’re not here to do that for them, or each other. We’re here to please God, to learn how to use the gifts he’s given us, to share his love with each other and those he brings across our paths. 

Marriage is a mystery, a means of grace, and a daily challenge. We are very different people, with very different personalities. I’d love to have a backyard full of chickens and a house full of neighborhood kids and noise. He’d like a townhouse with no lawn to mow, no clutter of any kind. I like meandering down back roads, floating lazily in my kayak in the nearby lake, wandering through the woods listening for bird song. He prefers focus: if he’s going somewhere, he wants to get there sometime soon, whether by foot, boat, car, or golf cart. For him, the idea of going is to get there. For me, the idea of going is to see what's happening along the way.

Marriage offers a place to learn all those lofty words the Bible invites us to grow into: patience, forgiveness, humility, forbearance. 

And love: the kind of love that invites us to die to our own plans, our own preferences, our own love of comfort, our own visions of what might be best. 

Submission is like one of those lovely Celtic knots: there’s no telling were it starts, no telling where it ends. Together we submit to each other, the needs of the family, the callings God leads us to, the cry of the broken world around us. The pattern emerges as we go, beautiful, complicated, so interwoven it’s hard to tell: is it one strand, or two? Maybe three.

Here’s the passage we live under, live into, rest in, taped for years inside a kitchen cupboard door:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  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 Lord’s holy people, 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 3:14-19)
We aren’t there yet, but we’re learning as we go along. 

And for that, I’m very very thankful.

detail from Book of Kells, c. 800 AD, Ireland