The incredible amount of detail in this stunning piece by artist April Bang flows from her meditation on the infinite love spoken of in Ephesians 3:14-21.
Deeper into Infinite Love, Detail 1
Deeper into Infinite Love, Detail 2
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14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21 is a passage of scripture that is close to my heart and one that I frequently go to and meditate on. As I painted this piece, I was drawn to read and reflect on the passage with various English translations of the Bible to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning and see what new insights would emerge with the same verses expressed in different ways. As I explored the passage in this way, I realized that it is a prayer as well as an encounter with mystery. According to the different translations of the Bible, Ephesians 3:14-21 is: “A prayer for the Ephesians” (NIV); “Prayer for the Readers” (NRSV); “Prayer for Spiritual Strength” (ESV); “Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Growth” (NLT); and “Appreciation of the Mystery” (NKJV). This prayer expressed in The Message exhorts us to the glorious inner strength of having Christ in our hearts and experiencing the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love, of God who can do far more than what we could expect, imagine, or ask by His power at work within us, His spirit working within deeply and gently.
Here in these verses, as expressed in different ways, a particular kind of love—a love that extends beyond knowledge, a love that exceeds our expectations and even imagination, a love that regenerates and transforms—seems to be the focus. And as we kneel down to pray, perhaps it is this kind of love that remains the mystery for us to appreciate as well as come to know, in ever-increasing breadth and length and height and depth. Though we may never come to understand it completely, we will nevertheless be able to “know” this love that surpasses the limits of our knowledge and cognition and takes us into the depths of an experiential and relational reality that allows us to be rooted and grounded in love and filled with all the fullness of God, not just alone in intimate, personal devotion and contemplation, but in community with “all the saints” that transcends the walls of our own church and extends across geography, culture, sociodemographic affiliation, doctrine, denomination, and any other factor that may differentiate us from others.
I listened to the song “On and On” by Housefires on repeat as I painted and meditated on the passage. This song seems to express the prayer and mystery conveyed in the verses so beautifully: “Deeper than any ocean… Higher than any mountain / Your love goes on / And on and on and on.” The music and lyrics guided my colors and brush strokes, layer by layer, day by day, while I reflected on love that goes on and on… love that is infinite… love that draws us to God’s presence and keeps us there.
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is this love that surpasses knowledge, fills with fullness, and strengthens with power? What does it mean to have such a love abiding and working in our hearts? I am starting to think more deeply about love, faith, and fullness these days. The passage states that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith and immediately talks about love that surpasses knowledge and fills us with the fullness of God. As I have been reflecting on this passage, I am learning and discovering that this love, however close to us, comes, not of ourselves, but of God; of the Spirit of God “entering into our soul” with love as Jonathan Edwards says in his sermon entitled “Love, the Sum of all Virtue”. And it is the Spirit of God that strengthens our inner being, transforms our hearts, and gives power to love with the love of Christ; a love that has no limits; a love where there is fullness of joy and freedom; a love that we can know even as it is infinite!
My life and professional experiences to date have primarily centered on the theme of personal transformation and systemic change. I paint, draw, write, and create from a place of spiritual contemplation, exploration, and experiential discovery in pursuit of growth, wholeness, restoration, and transformation, which seems to never end. Transformation within us can foster transformation around us in our relationships, our communities, and our societies, which in turn, transform us again. The cycle seems to be continuous. The words of Ephesians 3:14-21 have been, and continue to be, transformative for me. God’s power is at work within us. God’s love is infinite as it is also accessible to us. And God can do abundantly more than what we ask or think.
April H. Bang is an artist, leadership educator, researcher, and practitioner specializing in adaptive leadership, transformative learning and adult development, systemic change, and collaborative capacity building. She is an advanced doctoral student in the Adult Learning and Leadership program of the Organization and Leadership Department at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Prior to her doctoral studies, she taught leadership to undergraduate students at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea and conducted workshops for students and professionals in Asia. In addition, she has diverse and extensive experience as a practitioner working across the fields of human rights, criminal justice reform, international rule of law development, and economic policy, including work at the Vera Institute of Justice, International Justice Mission, Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Human Rights Commissions and Criminal Justice, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
As a developing artist, April has an on-going curiosity to examine and demonstrate how art could foster individual and collective transformation. She has started to exhibit her visual artwork in galleries and has co-curated a community art installation in Harlem.
She is passionate about art, leadership education, community growth and social impact, and her experiential and scholarly research on the restorative and transformative power of the arts in conflict resolution led to an article in the Journal of Transformative Education. Most recently, she completed the Gotham Fellowship, a leadership development program at the Center for Faith and Work (CFW) of Redeemer City to City, which has inspired her to explore the integration of art, leadership, and theology. She holds an MPP from Harvard Kennedy School, an Ed.M. in Adult Learning and Leadership from Columbia University, and a BA in economics from Smith College.