I cringe at the thought of guided group tours. I also clutch my wallet tightly. I just don’t like the idea of paying someone to stuff me in a bus or a boat and ferry me around telling me what to look at. And yet somehow, I was persuaded to take my family on the Maid of the Mist boat tour of Niagara Falls.
The kids were young then. The age when they were still unabashedly wide-eyed when anticipating something exciting. Before boarding, everyone was given bright blue hooded ponchos to put on. The kids thought this was marvelous, laughing at their parents in these funny get-ups. Soon we were aboard, standing amongst a crowd in the spacious bow of the Maid of the Mist, the kids all aquiver in their ponchos on a boat about to set sail.
As we set out into the choppy waters of the Niagara River, the Horseshoe Falls were well out of sight around the bend. The tour guide was sharing all kinds of details over the loudspeaker, but I can’t recall a word he said. That is, until — and it seemed amazingly well choreographed — just as he completed a sentence that dramatically ended with the words: “…Niagara Falls!”, the boat completed a turn, and whammo! — we were faced with the thunderous, towering, poncho-drenching monstrosity of Niagara Falls!
It was truly awe-inspiring. All our senses were suddenly assaulted by the roar of the plummeting waters of Horseshoe Falls, our faces drenched with the spray that filled the air, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water crashing into the waters all around us every second.
Now I don’t use the word “abound” too often (pretty much never, actually), but Niagara Falls truly abounds in water. To abound means “to be present in great quantity… to be copiously supplied.” Copious means “taking place on a large scale.” And yet, in all its violent overflow of 2,844 tons of water per second, or over 680,000 gallons per second, Niagara still only “abounds” on an earthly scale.
That’s why when Paul prays, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12), it gets my attention! That’s referring to a lotta love, because now we’re talking about God’s scale.
It’s clear from Paul’s prayer that it’s only God who can supply us with such abundant love. God pours it out to us using gigantic heavenly portions so that we can excessively overflow with love for those around us. The Greek word here suggests a superabundance that is exceedingly beyond measure. God loves us on such a scale so that we can then abound in love for others – much like the way the waters of Niagara Falls saturated all of us who approached it.
God can lead us in how this will look. A member of the small group I attend gave up an item in his shopping cart because a stranger he met in the store couldn’t find any more of those items in stock. Another member of our church has gone shopping for his neighbour down the street because their health has left them too compromised to leave their house. I brought a pie home from a local bakery for the people next door to us. The possibilities are as endless as God’s love. But be assured: the Lord is able to “make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”
I’m so grateful for God’s love! And I’m also grateful that it’s because of his infinite love that we as his children can “abound” in superabundant love for those around us! In this season of COVID-19 and of social distancing, may his superabundant love be superobvious to all we meet.