He catapults out of bed in the middle of the night and I hear his bare feet slapping against the hallway’s wooden floor as he hustles through the darkness. All of this comes to me as sleep’s heavy shadow gives way to a dim and growing awareness. Then, he stands beside the bed.
“Daddy,” he says.
“What?” my husband mumbles.
“I love you as much as there is,” he says.
“Ok, Levi,” my husband replies, his voice clearer now, rising to meet his son’s offer of love. “I love you too.”
“Ok, good night. I’ll see you in the morning,” Levi adds.
“Good night, see you in the morning,” my husband answers, completing the call and response.
Levi runs back down the hallway and sleep descends again upon our house.
“I love you as much as there is” is the latest attempt in five-year-old Levi’s ongoing effort to verbalize the depths of his love for us which, apparently, is particularly intense around two or three in the morning. He’s fascinated by math and, for a while, tried using the biggest numbers he could think of to express the magnitude of his love. “I love you 100 times 100,” he would say.
But it wasn’t enough.
He knows there are bigger numbers and he doesn’t want to undersize his love. So, for now, he’s sticking to the enigmatic phrase, “as much as there is.”
Last night, before I fell back to sleep, I saw for a moment the simple humility of that phrase – a child’s willingness to believe in and try to convey that which is beyond words.
Real love is like that. God’s love is like that, so real and yet so big it’s hard to explain.
The apostle Paul, struggling to convey God’s love to the church at Ephesus, put it this way,
“I pray that you might have the power 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 (Ephesians 3:18-19).”
Paul tries to sketch out the dimensions of what he realizes is beyond description, he prays for the Ephesians to somehow receive the ability to comprehend the incomprehensible. In so doing, he invites them – invites us all – to enter into the depths of God’s love which is both measurable (because it exists) and beyond measure (because of the limits of human comprehension and communication).
Paul’s prayer comes to us like a voice in the night, the words of someone struggling to communicate what he clearly knows is beyond communication: God loves you as much as there is.