“Observe the endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion that is in Christ … What is our finite guilt before it? Show me the sinner that can spread his iniquities to the dimensions of this grace. Here is mercy enough for the greatest, the oldest, the stubbornest transgressor.” (John Owen, 1616-1683)
Do you find you skip past lists of words like endless and bottomless and boundless? I do. And I find that I especially do so with words like boundless, a word I’ve never thought much about. So the other day, when reading John Owen’s words, I made myself stop and slow down, for if Owen is speaking of the same grace God had Paul write about in Ephesians 3, it’s really important. I need to pay attention, concentrate, glean.
Sometimes it helps me to try and imagine a picture that could describe a word. So, for Owen’s words, I imagined scenes which could, hopefully, make his words come alive:
Scene #1/endless: Picture a number line stretching out into the black of star-studded space, shooting as an arrow past stars and moons and planets, off into the darkness, fading into the distant blackness, never stopping, a ribbon extending to infinity, with no end. My stomach sort of drops at the feeling of the frightful, never stopping elongation. The immeasurable extension. The Endlessness.
Scene #2/bottomless: Now picture a deep, deep well, and as you approach and peer over its edge into its depths, you stumble and fall in, tumbling through the air over and over and over, down, down, down, down. As you fall, you realize there is no bottom to this well, no final landing, no stopping, no thwunk as you smash against the rock surface of the bottom. In this well, there’s only unfathomable depth, going on forever and ever. Infinite Bottomlessness.
Scene #3/boundless: And now, picture yourself on a nice, little playground which has a fence all around its circumference — it’s a chain link fence, the kind you can see through, and it’s about as tall as you are. On the other side of the fence in all directions are open plains — no trees or hills, just flat terrain as far your eye can see. Then, suddenly, the fence begins to move, still shaped like an upright fence, but moving outward simultaneously in all directions, outward, outward, outward, away, away. Speeding farther and farther away from you, the sight of the moving fence begins to diminish, and then to fade away completely, becoming so tiny that it disappears into the distance. There are no longer any boundaries to your playground. With each moment, your area expands; endless, un-boundaried, breath-catching. Boundless.
Now this: Visualize your end-less number line, your bottom-less well, your bound-less fencing. Breath-catching. Immeasurable. Limitless. And as you visualize, hearing each word — endless, bottomless, boundless, each with a scene to describe it — listen to the description of forgiveness and mercy offered you. Picture the size of God’s love for you as you hear my paraphrase of Owen and Paul:
“Greatest, oldest, stubbornest of sinners, your transgressions, though mounded as high as many mountains, cannot spread farther or higher or deeper than Christ’s grace and compassion. The never-ending love you desperately need does exist. God’s mercy is endless, bottomless, boundless.
“And I pray that you…may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…”