If Jesus had read comic strips, I think His favorite might have been Calvin & Hobbes.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the comic, this is Calvin.
He’s a 6-year-old boy who is, well… a 6-year-old boy. He is funny, mischievous, asks a lot of “why?” questions, and is scared of the monsters that might be lurking under his bed. His imagination is beyond compare, his expressions are never understated, and his adventures are always over the top.
This is Hobbes.
At least this is how adults see Hobbes—a lifeless tiger, stuffed with fluff, and usually in need of a washing machine’s soak cycle.
But that’s not how Calvin sees Hobbes.
Hobbes is Calvin’s best friend, stuffed with exuberant life, and usually on an outrageous adventure with Calvin that will land them both in need of a good, long soak.
Wet or dry, day or night, in the bed or in the car, all the adults in Calvin’s world quickly figure out that when Hobbes goes missing or is left behind, Calvin is beyond consolation. When Calvin and Hobbes are together though, it’s pure magic. They are known for their wagon rides, camping trips, explorations in the woods, and snowman building.
But it’s their after-school ritual that I think Jesus would have liked the most.
In the confines of school, Calvin is socially on the outs. He is routinely beat up by the school bully. He struggles to concentrate in Mrs. Wormwood’s classroom. And he’d rather be doing anything outside rather than anything related to reading, writing, or arithmetic inside.
On top of that, his relationship with girls is strained. Even though one part of him secretly likes Sally, the other half can’t resist pelting her with snowballs, water balloons, or arrows.
Just making it through a school day without a trip to the principal or nurse’s office is a struggle. By the time the school bus drops him off, both spirit and body have both been bruised. Calvin then pulls himself home and up the front steps where he pushes open the front door and there is Hobbes.
But not a mild-mannered, restrained, distracted Hobbes who offers an over-the-shoulder “how was your day?” greeting from the other room. Nope. Hobbes leaps and pounces! He squeezes, shakes, and wrestles Calvin to the ground leaving the boy with no doubt that seeing Calvin is the best part of Hobbes’ day.
And Hobbes greets Calvin like this every single school day.
And even if Calvin gets tired of the wildly over-the-top Hello, Hobbes never does.
I think this image could have been the opening illustration of Ephesians 3 if Paul the Apostle had had as much talent with sketches as he did with words.
As adults, we’re likely to read the English version of Paul’s letter (verses 18-19) without much life:
“I pray that you…may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
This sounds like cerebral stuff for the pious to ponder. I’d rather be outside riding in a wagon feeling the wind in my curls than inside thinking about how something surpasses knowledge.
But what if instead of seeing a lifeless sentence with feathery theories, we see these words stuffed with energy ready to aggressively take hold of us?
That is after all what the verb “comprehend” (katalambanó in the Greek) means: to seize tight hold of, arrest, catch, capture, aggressively take, take hold of with decisive initiative.
The Apostle Mark uses this same verb to describe a boy who is seized and thrown down. Paul’s prayer for us is beginning to look a lot less like stoic saintly whisperings and more like a move that Hobbes might make.
Now what about the noun “knowledge”? Well, Paul isn’t talking about monotonous, fall-asleep-in-class, nice-to-have-on-trivia-night knowledge.
Gnósis, Greek for knowledge, means to experientially know, knowledge gleaned from first-hand (personal) experience, connecting theory to application, knowledge gained in a direct relationship. This is in-your-face, up-close and personal, I-have-the-paw-prints-to-prove-it knowledge.
So when Paul prays that we know the width, length, height, and depth of God’s love, he isn’t hoping for an abstract understanding of love. He’s hoping we come to know the kind of love that pounces on us at the front door every single day!
Tim Keller puts it this way, “Paul asks the Holy Spirit to give ‘power to grasp.’ The word grasp means ‘to wrestle’…It means to jump on somebody, overpower him, wrestle him to the ground, and knock him out.”(1)
This is love that leaves you out of breath, out of words, flat on the ground.
This is love you can’t hide from, outmaneuver, or sneak around. It always pursues you.
This is Hobbes-like love.
This is Jesus-like love.
May everything in us know that we are loved by God, Most Merciful.
All cartoon images are from The Complete Calvin & Hobbes Book One and Book Two by Bill Watterson.
(1) From Tim Keller’s book “Prayer” page 173. Not only is this book a deep dive into prayer, it is a deep dive into the beauty and love of God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. My copy is ✏️ underlined, ⭐️ starred, and 🐶 dog-eared.