Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Attraction, Influence, Coercion, and Sex: A Call for Intentional Integrity

There have been three stories in the news in recent weeks that illustrate the power of influence to lead to abuse, and specifically, to abuse of a sexual nature.

In the first, a psychologist used his influence over his patients, and their trust in the therapeutic relationship, to coerce them into performing sex acts with him. In the second, a Naval officer countered charges of sexual assault against a subordinate by asserting the sex was consensual. Most recently, the Houston Chronicle amassed a record of more than 700 victims of sexual abuse—most of them minors—at the hands of ministers from the largest Evangelical denomination in the United States. All of these stories offer a strong reminder that where we have influence over another person, we must engage in extreme vigilance to ensure that influence does not become a corridor for exploitation.

As is most often the case, the predators in these tales were men. If we’re really, truly honest with ourselves, men, we can look at many of these stories and see shadows of the horrible acts we, in our baser natures, are capable of. True, some of these perpetrators are hardened predators, who intentionally and with malice seek out, groom, and exploit others for their own twisted pleasure. But most of them are men who simply allowed pride and lust and arrogance to selectively blind them to their obligation to care for and protect someone under their care, exchanging that duty for a self-serving narrative in which the vulnerability of trust placed in them was distorted into a darkened perception of sexual acquiescence. And if you cannot see your innate potential to follow a similar path, then you very likely are only a few short steps from a precipitous fall.

The goal of this essay is to offer, from one man to another, a way of thinking about how the influence we have over others intersects with forces like intimacy and attraction, with a goal toward practical steps for keeping ourselves from wandering into the same blind hubris which befell these men. We owe it to the individuals who are and will be under our care to learn this well, and to teach it to the boys and men with whom we have influence. Failure to make this an intentional aim of your leadership, ministry, or caregiving—especially if you are in a position of mentoring or training other leaders, ministers, or caregivers—is to perpetuate the same vacuous system that has allowed such abuse to flourish.

How did we get here?

A central problem in this issue (and it is also central to nearly all of the distortions of God-given sexuality we see in society) is that we generally lack the ability to discern between emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy. This is so fundamental that in my experience most men, particularly in western culture, don’t have a working definition of intimacy that is not inherently sexual.

In psychology, intimacy is defined as “a process of interaction in which social partners, as a result of sharing personal and private thoughts and feelings, come to feel understood, appreciated, and cared for by each other.” The word itself is derived from a Latin word for “innermost,” and evolved to mean making known or very familiar.

In any relationship in which one or more parties is sharing of their inner selves, intimacy can naturally arise. Psychotherapy training acknowledges this as a natural—if not inevitable—outgrowth of a therapeutic relationship, and psychotherapists are exhorted to handle this phenomenon with the greatest of care. Ministers are just as likely as psychotherapists to experience intimacy as a natural outgrowth of a professional relationship, and leaders in many settings may also find a closeness with those under their charge which can breed feelings of intimacy.

We have been created by God to connect with other human beings. We should not be surprised when this occurs. But we also must be clear-eyed as to what this means and what it does not mean. We must choose—in advance—to consciously interpret any feelings of intimacy that arise as the natural but fragile outgrowth of a trust relationship, and we must consciously set aside any interpretation of such feelings as any sort of sexual invitation.

Emotional connections between people are natural and God-given. But many of us have been so hardened by the pervasive feeding of our sexual lusts, either passively from the ubiquitousness of sexually stimulating media in our culture, or actively through the pursuit of lustful stimulation, that any sense of connection is prone to being interpreted as sexual. And evidence of reciprocation of that connection is prone to misinterpretation as a sexual invitation.

The most important preparation for this battle is to consciously and perpetually put sexual desire in its God-given container: marriage. I’ve written elsewhere of the power of a prayer of gratitude as a pathway for fleeing lust. If you are married, this may be a prayer of thanksgiving for your wife; if you are not married, it can be a prayer of thanksgiving for the institution of marriage, thankfulness that God has given you everything you need for life and godliness, and that when or if you need a wife he will provide one. You must also consciously acknowledge that any sexual thought for any woman you are not married to is adultery in its fullest, most damnable form. This is why Paul urges us not only to flee such thoughts, but to bludgeon them with full spiritual violence (Galatians 5:24). It is also worth highlighting that while the call to “flee youthful lust” (2 Timothy 2:22) is applicable for all followers of Christ for all time, its original context was in a letter from an older pastor mentoring a young pastor (2 Timothy 2:1-2).

Fatal Attraction

A common defense for exploitative sexual relationships—even when the victim of abuse is a minor—is that the sex was consensual. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the abused to profess attraction for their abuser. But the presence of mutual attraction does not in any way lessen or excuse the fact of exploitation.

Our brains are hard-wired to be attracted to other people. Most often we sort that attraction into bins based on what is appropriate for that relationship. Because of our diminished ability to discern between emotional and sexual intimacy, if we perceive the other person to be in any way a viable sexual partner, we will experience the attraction as sexual. For this reason it is vital that we have the mental discipline to constrain the range of what we allow ourselves to entertain as viable sexual partners. Again, the biblical standard calls us to limit that to the person we are married to. In a commonly used marriage vow we promise to “forsake all others.” Forsake means to give up our rights to something. Men, we must consciously—and continuously—give up our perceived “right” to any sexual partner other than the one we are in covenant with before God.

It is also helpful to recognize the common ingredients of attraction. Though attraction comes with a lot of feels, it is ultimately just a chemical reaction in our brains to stimuli to which God designed us to respond. While this obviously plays a role in the attraction that leads to a covenant marriage, I believe the biblical record would more fundamentally identify the purpose of our God-given capacity for attraction to be to facilitate our obedience to the command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18).

Social psychologists have identified a number of potent, universal mechanisms of attraction. One of the strongest is beauty, or physical attractiveness. Another is proximity: simply being physically close to someone fosters a sense of attraction; repeated or prolonged proximity can intensify this. Another strong arbiter of attraction is similarity; we feel more connection with those we perceive as being like us in some way, such as belonging to the same group (any kind of grouping will do, from shared ethnic cultural heritage to liking the same sports team, and anything in between) and sharing similar values or beliefs.

Another insidious but potent attraction-enhancer is our affective state. When we are in a positive mood, we tend to like the people we encounter more. Similarly, when we are in a physiologically aroused state, we also rate people whom we otherwise find attractive as even more attractive. Elevated heart rate and/or elevated adrenaline, such as when working out or in a frightening situation, can increase our perceptions of attractiveness.

The bottom line is this: we are designed to connect with other people, and commonplace circumstances can directly and indirectly increase feelings of intimacy and attraction. Do not be surprised when such feelings occur, and absolutely do not be so arrogant as to believe something cosmic or mystical is drawing you into a sexual relationship. Stay grounded in the God-given “bin” for sexuality—your marriage—and consciously put any other feelings of attraction or intimacy at the foot of the cross, to be used solely in keeping with kingdom-building purposes (Matthew 6:33).

A Warning for Leaders

The vulnerability that is endemic to psychotherapeutic and pastoral care relationships is fairly plain to see. To this end, all credible training programs for these professions explicitly teach would-be practitioners to monitor and manage these dynamics. But the vulnerability in the leader-follower relationship is not so obvious, and we seldom teach leaders to guard against abusing it.

The article posted above, in which a military commander was charged with sexual abuse after what he asserts was a consensual sexual relationship, is a classic example. A leader will often develop a close relationship with a follower. Followers will often admire and have feelings of attraction for their leader. In some cases these feelings may be bundled with a sense of fear, which can lead a follower to submit to an unwanted sexual relationship due to even an implicit fear of reprisal; but that fear also can lead to actual attraction due to the role that emotional and physiological arousal can have in intensifying feelings of attraction. No matter how or why the attraction emerges, it is the leader’s responsibility to keep sex out of the relationship.

The potential for abuse is particularly high in leader-follower relationships in very hierarchical organizations. Perhaps no organization—especially not in western society—is more hierarchical than the military. Service members are operantly conditioned to defer to those in authority over them. True consent requires a high degree of equality in a relationship. For a leader in a hierarchical organization to entertain thoughts that a sexual relationship could be built consensually is patently absurd.

The most egregious example of the abuse of a hierarchical relationship comes not from the pages of the newspaper, but of the Bible. David, as king of Israel, raped one of his subjects. We usually talk about the relationship as “adulterous.” But the reality is that the relationship was inherently coercive, and coerced sex is, by definition, rape. Though there is always a power differential between a ruler and their subjects, this differential was extreme in David’s time and culture. The king of Israel was granted absolute authority over his subjects (1 Samuel 8:10-18) and to disobey an order from the king could result in immediate and legally justified execution (2 Samuel 1:14-16, 2 Samuel 4:12). It is in this context that Bathsheba was summoned to appear before the sovereign king of Israel. The Bible makes no record of a conversation of any kind, much less whether any consent were sought or given. Even if David asked her for permission to have sex with her, he held all of the advantage: he was the king, she was the subject; she was alone, he was accompanied by his entire cohort of guards, servants, aides, and attendants; she was in his palace, not in her own home. There is nothing about this scenario which places Bathsheba anywhere close to equal footing with David from which she could reasonably have been expected to negotiate whether or not to engage in a relationship that they both knew was in violation of God’s law (and presumably also of the civil law of the land). David’s authority was inherently coercive, so his sex with Bathsheba was abusive.

I have heard it proposed that perhaps Bathsheba contrived the entire affair, and that her bathing on her roof was an elaborate honeytrap to ensnare the king into a relationship while she was ovulating, with a plan to get pregnant and improve her station by bearing the king’s child. I don’t know enough about ancient Jewish household arrangements to know whether bathing outdoor on rooftops was a common or an absurd occurrence. I find this reading preposterous, but let’s play what if: suppose the whole saga did turn out to have been an elaborate manipulation by Bathsheba. What of David? Is this the kind of leader one would like to follow? A leader who allows a moment of lust to germinate into using his organization’s resources to arrange an illicit affair? Who then goes so far as to alter his organization’s mission and intentionally endanger his personnel to cover it up? For whom even ordering a murder is not a bridge too far?

The military implicitly recognizes that even purportedly consensual sexual relations between junior personnel and leaders in the chain of command can be detrimental to mission effectiveness, and therefore such relationships are punishable. In fact, an inappropriate relationship does not even have to be proven to be explicitly sexual to be considered a violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Leaders are charged with maintaining professional boundaries with those they lead, and it is the more senior member who bears the bulk of the responsibility for violations of this standard.

In light of the statutory prohibitions against sexual and other inappropriate relationships, the intensely hierarchical nature of military organizations, and the fact that service members are explicitly conditioned to respect and defer to superior rank, it is my view that any sexual encounter between a military leader and a subordinate should always be regarded as coerced, even when there is explicit evidence of formal consent. Military leaders wield significant influence in the form of severe formal and informal power over those they lead (especially those leaders with command authority). Service members deserve leaders who are committed to good stewardship of that power, and to be able to trust beyond any doubt that their leaders will not use their significant influence to manipulate or exploit their followers for personal gain, especially with regard to sex.

Practical Application

Psychotherapists, ministers, and leaders (especially in hierarchical organizations such as the military) are in positions of significant trust and influence. There are certainly other roles and relationships which lend themselves to abuse, and these recommendations may be helpful in those settings. But for anyone who is a psychotherapist, minister, or leader, and for anyone who is training or mentoring men for those roles, the following are absolutely critical:
  • Recognize that by virtue of your role alone, before they meet or know anything else about you, those under your care will approach you with a degree of vulnerability and trust
  • Recognize that due to the nature of the relationship, those under your care will likely experience feelings of admiration, closeness, and liking; always assume that these are due to your role and the service you provide and behave accordingly
  • Acknowledge that these relationships also can engender stronger feelings of affection, intimacy, and attraction; recognize that these feelings can be misinterpreted (by you and/or those under your care) as sexual attraction
  • ALWAYS assume that any sexual attraction you feel for those under your care (or that you perceive from them) is out of place and contrary to the real purpose of the relationship
  • Commit yourself now and continuously to the conviction that those under your care will never, under any circumstances, be appropriate outlets for your sexual desires; even when the other party explicitly pursues a sexual or romantic relationship with you, your duty is to protect the sanctity of that relationship, both for that person and for the sake of all the others who depend on you
As a follower of Christ, commit yourself to crucifying every sinful desire, but expunge with extreme violence any sexual desire or other passion that would abuse the trust of vulnerability that those under your care have given you; they deserve nothing less.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Mindful Faith

Too often, we regard faith as a sort of hazy, misty abstraction rather than a practical discipline. In a previous essay, “A Faith-Full Mind,” we explored scripture to seek a less abstract conceptualization of faith. We worked through how faith saves and what it means to live and walk by faith. In this essay, we’ll dig deeper into these concepts, with an emphasis on practical application.
In “A Faith-Full Mind,” a central theme that emerged was the role of the mind. Not only is faith a belief, but it is also a state of mental focus. When we speak of mental focus, you may be reminded of the concept of “mindfulness.”  In many conservative Christian circles there is a discomfort with practices such as mindfulness because they are often associated with traditions like Buddhism and other explicitly non-Christian religious and spiritual activities. But at its core, mindfulness is simply a psychological practice of mental focus. Most mindfulness practices direct that focus on the present moment, often through directing attention to the physical senses. This often is paired with a more passive awareness of mental phenomena, such as thoughts or emotions; a classic approach invites the subject to imagine their thoughts and emotions passing as clouds in the sky (as opposed to actively engaging them, making judgments about them, or attempting to change them). Mindfulness—along with related practices such as meditation, breathing-based relaxation, and self-hypnosis—is associated with a number of mental and physical health benefits, particularly in the realm of stress reduction. In a neurocognitive sense what is occurring in these techniques is that we are taking advantage of the fact that the brain can only truly focus on one thing at a time (multi-tasking is essentially rapidly shifting attention across competing stimuli), and the technique seeks to give the brain something that is at least neutral—and if possible relaxing and restorative—to focus on.
We were created with a capacity for focus, and when we are focused we function better mentally, emotionally, and physically. This truth is helpful to consider as we continue to explore practical applications of the biblical principle of living and walking by faith. Sometimes when we reflect on concepts such as faith, there is a tendency to overspiritualize. As we learned in the last essay, faith is our access point to spiritual and supernatural realities, but faith as an action occurs in our minds.  
Hebrews 12:2 directs us to keep our eyes on Jesus. But what eyes? What does that mean? Do we need to carry around a picture of Jesus and keep looking at it? (Actually, yes, sort of!) Consider the following scriptures:
  • Colossians 3:1-2: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” [emphasis added]
  • Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.” [emphasis added]
Harkening back to our discussion of mindfulness, the highlighted phrases certainly are calling us to exercise the mindfulness part of our brains in pursuit of spiritual realities. But how do we know what the “things above” and “pure, lovely” and “commendable” things are? Is it a gut feeling? This is where that “picture of Jesus” comes in.  

  • Psalm 119:11: “I have treasured your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."
  • Joshua 1:8: “This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.”
We create and can “look at” an internal picture of Jesus by reading, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture.
Another way to use the mind to walk by faith is prayer. 1 Thess 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you.” A few writers on spiritual disciplines have described the core of their practice as being a sort of ongoing prayer, a constant conversation with the Lord, which is dominated by proclamations of gratitude and thanksgiving, but in which every single thought is shared in an ongoing conversation with the Lord. A. W. Tozer has written in The Pursuit of God of turning one’s internal eyes toward Christ who lives within. He notes that God is omnipresent, he exists throughout every aspect of his creation, so failing to be aware of God’s presence isn’t an absence of God’s presence, it’s a choosing to not be aware of it, choosing to focus on something not-God.
So there is a mental discipline of filling our thoughts with God’s thoughts, as revealed in his word, and of engaging in an ongoing conversation with him through prayer. This is a moment-by-moment focusing of the mind, an intentional and recursive directing our attention to the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is our communication link to the Father and Son. It’s vital we remember that Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God and knowing Christ. We only know what they “look like” through his word. This is why other spiritual disciplines such as Bible study and hearing the word preached are so essential. If we’re “knowing” someone or something other than what comes directly from the pages of scripture, there’s a real danger that we’re worshiping a false god.
Most often this false god is some version of our own natural desires. As we saw when we reviewed Romans 7 in “A Faith-Full Mind,” those desires, that capacity for evil, are always right there with us. If we haven’t trained our minds to recognize the true God, we’ll find other gods within. Paul warns Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:8-12 of one such god. The desire to be rich is just one example of a common, human desire, one that is ubiquitous in our culture (and even our churches), but which can keep us from the ongoing, intimate relationship with God that he created and then saved us for. When we are turning our inward eyes to that which is within without training them to recognize God and his Christ, we will make gods of any number of natural desires, and will instead live according to what is right in our own eyes (Proverbs 21:2; Judges 17:6).
When we are grounded in God’s truth as revealed in his word, and we have believed what he says about us and our sin, have received by faith Christ’s replacement sacrifice on our behalf, we can now walk by faith. We do this by continuing to grow in wisdom and knowledge of God through his word and then continually, moment by moment, turning our mental focus toward him. This mental focus is the touchpoint at which the mundane becomes the spiritual. When we are focused inwardly on this portrait of Christ we’ve constructed from his word by meditating on memorized scripture, when we are praying without ceasing in an ongoing prayer characterized by gratitude and rejoicing, we are communing with him through the presence of his Holy Spirit living within us. This is walking by faith.
Our focus so far has been on obtaining a biblical picture of walking by faith and identifying the practical components of living in that way. But there is also the subjective aspect of this way of living. What follows are several images and metaphors for walking by faith. Some of them have been given to us in the pages of the Bible. One is consistent with biblical truth, but the allusion itself is not explicitly described in scripture. But all represent another dimension of how we can use the mental abilities God has given us to keep ourselves grounded in communion with him.
When I practice breathing-based relaxation, I find that as I sit still and quiet and begin to execute the mechanics of regulating my autonomic arousal, my mind often decides it’s time to start wandering around looking for trouble (worrying, making plans, etc.). Needless to say, if my mind is not engaged in the technique, I’m not going to get particularly relaxed. So, my brain needs some sort of hook to pull it back when it wanders. That can be as simple as returning my focus to the mechanics of the technique, for example paying special attention to the air coming in through my nose and filling up my lungs. But I find if I give myself something more involved and more salient, such as a mental scene which taps into all of my senses, my attention is held even more strongly, and I achieve a much deeper relaxation response.
In the same way, the following metaphors have helped me not only conceptualize what it looks and feels like to walk by faith, but they also give my mind rich and salient images upon which to reflect, better holding my attention on the things of God. These metaphors also help to illustrate the subjective, emotional aspects of walking by faith, what walking by faith may feel like (or at least what it has felt like in my experience).
Abiding. In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” When I’m walking in faith, I feel connected to Christ, just like the branch he describes. The only effort is just to keep the end of my branch, the root of my branch, attached—mentally and spiritually—to Christ. As I remain connected to him, things are happening through me that are essentially effortless. For example, resisting temptation is much simpler. Rather than fighting off the temptation directly, I turn my whole inner being toward Christ, because the mind focused on Christ and his Spirit does not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Similarly, I don’t have to try to synthesize joy; the joy flows from Christ’s trunk to my branch if I’m connected to him, abiding in him, mentally and emotionally focused on and engaged with him. The effort is put into remaining focused on him, everything else flows out of that.
Light. 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8: “For you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled and put on the armor of faith and love, and a helmet of the hope of salvation.” When I’m walking by faith, there is a heightened awareness of spiritual darkness and spiritual light. For me, it feels kind of like that scene in “The Matrix” when Neo suddenly can see through the system, and instead of the images of people and objects and space, he sees the source code, strings of binary everywhere. Emotionally, it’s very powerful. For one thing, there is no sense of fear (I mean, I’m already dead [Galatians 2:20], so what can anything in the world do to me?). For another, the people and problems we face every day become transparent and their temporariness is apparent. There is a heightened sense of the eternal. The person or problem in front of me is seen in the light of their eternal worth before God, and I become much more attuned to opportunities to bear eternal fruit.
Flow. There’s also a sense of flow in walking by faith. Jesus once stood up in church and yelled, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” John goes on to add, “He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit.” (John 7:37-39) When I’m walking in faith, there is a flow. I often think of the Christian life as a stream. Saving faith gets you into the water. The stream has a current that pulls you supernaturally toward God and his righteousness. The current is slowest near the banks and grows stronger as you move toward the center. The world and the old self are represented by the banks. I can be in the stream (that is, have received salvation by faith), but be stuck in the shallow, slow water by the bank. This is most often because I am clinging to things on or from the bank, like branches hanging over the water, desires which tempt me back toward the things of the world. But when I let go of those things, I move, and the more I let go of—the less I am clinging to the desires of the flesh or the cares of this temporary world—the more I am drawn toward the center, where the current is the strongest.
Only the new self can exist in the center of the stream. As the current begins to pull me more and more toward the center, the more I become aware of the things I am clinging to of my old self. The only way to continue toward the center of the stream is to keep letting go of everything, literally every desire that is not for God and his righteousness. Just as we saw in Romans 7, evil desires are always around, hanging over the stream like branches from the shore, reminding me of what I am leaving behind. In my walk as a follower of Christ, while I’ve experienced the center current of the stream, I don’t spend as much time there as I’d like. Sometimes I get distracted by and grab hold of a branch from the shore; sometimes I get lost wallowing in the muddy shallows of the bank. But when I’m in the center of the stream, God is continually showing me new currents which can pull me even closer to him. These new currents require letting go of more desires, usually smaller and smaller desires, things that when I was on the banks, or even in the shallow water, I wouldn’t have even recognized as sinful.
Moving toward the center of the flow is simple, as the main action required is simply letting go of things from the shore and turning toward God at the center of the stream, replacing desires for worldly things with thoughts and desires for God and his righteousness. But it’s also very painful at times, because those desires are part of me, and leaving them behind hurts. Often when God is actively drawing me more toward the center of the stream, it comes with significant emotional pain. In my experience, putting to death the desires of the flesh feels as vivid as it sounds, a sort of emotional surgery in which I have tumorous growths cut out of my skin and bones without any anesthesia. But at the end of the pain is a very real—and very freeing—sense of having truly died, that literally the only life I have is the one I have by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave himself for me.
2 Corinthians 5:5-9 “So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to him.”
There is a saving faith in which salvation is received as we agree with God about our sinful state, confess our need for a salvation that only he can provide, and believe in our heart and mind and words (Romans 10:9-10) that Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf cleanses us from all our unrighteousness. But faith is also a living, moment-by-moment experience of turning our inward eyes toward God, by praying continually and reading and memorizing and meditating on God’s word, so that his thoughts replace our thoughts in a continual renewing of the mind. The byproduct of this is the fruit of the Spirit; we know we’re not walking in the Spirit when our focus is on satisfying our human desires.
I hope these thoughts have been helpful. I pray for you, dear reader, this prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:16-19): “I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”