During my second attempt to join the new group, the words were read from the prayer of Ephesians, the book I had spent three months studying with good friends, that was as familiar to me as the face of my child.
"I ask that you'll comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ..."Or that's what I thought it said, what I'd always paraphrased it as. But this version was different:
"I ask that you'll have the power to grasp love's width and length, height and depth, together with all believers... "Could it be something I'd overlooked? Paul seems to ask on our behalf that God will give power to grasp this kind of love -- all encompassing, ever-widening -- not just that we'll understand it, or experience it, but that we'll hold on with the grip of Beowulf in order to get to God's fullness.
This is love like horsepower, we hold onto the reigns of the charging beast headed away from danger. This is love like a wet baby; lifting it from the bath with tender fingers sure and firm. This is love like a steep slope, ever tall, that we scale across not looking down and not looking back.
This new layer challenged me. This love required more than my contemplation, but power, for me to grasp. This love was a force.
The words were said over us to prepare us for the next twenty minutes. We were to do the Prayer of Examen and say and hear what could normally occupy a few hours. And we all -- women of different generations, occupations, and expectations -- set out through the patio doors, spilled out into the spring grass, and the gardens, and the nook behind the cedars.
Prayer of Examen: Become aware of God's presence. Review the day with gratitude. Pay attention to each emotion. Choose one and pray from that place. Move it into tomorrow.
Scanning through all of this, I made my lists of gratitudes and emotions. Choosing one took me to the usual gym, early morning at 5 a.m. Gloves on, trainer relentless, sharing a bag with another determined woman. But this day the other was a man and I could feel his strength radiate through and dead-stop my every punch. Hooks and jabs and sidekicks, all met a hard resistance through that bag. Glances at the clock, stopping for breath, but pushing until the hour was up. He had no idea how deep was my "thanks" when we were done, gloves ripped off to wipe the sweat from our brows.
That sense of power and the place of my prayer in that twenty minutes, I know, surprises and awakens me because it comes from so many years of weakness. I can be an adequate partner. I can be a competent mother. I can be an equal. I have a voice and a vocation. God loves it all. And on that grassy hill, overlooking stream and field and path, muscles still relaxing from the morning workout I heard, "You are not powerless."
Love is not beyond reach. But it is a fierce love, a moving love, a coercion and an impact; a strength of its own. In order to move into tomorrow we must arrange our lives in order to receive power; in order to hold on, to grasp.