16 May 2007

Finitude, Faith and Forever

I’ve been on something of a "finitude" kick for a while now. I think it began while I was trying to take care of my wife and home and family following Gerhardt’s birth, and I became increasingly aware of how finite I am! The very fact that I get on such "kicks" from time to time, which vary from one year to the next, is another aspect of my "finitude." I simply cannot do it all; nor can I accomplish what I do get done all at once. If I’m focusing on one thing, then I’m not paying as much attention to a countless number of other possible emphases. Unlike my wife and my computer, I’m not very good at multi-tasking. One thing at a time, one thing on my mind at once, and the more transition time in between things the better.

I really chafe at being a finite creature. Just thinking about everything on my "to do list" is overwhelming and debilitating. Working on my dissertation helped a lot, because it forced me to focus on the task at hand, and not to waste time and energy fretting about all the other tasks that were waiting in line to get done. It’s still the case, though, that I generally get most stressed out when I find myself with piles of projects crying out for attention. The piles are not only metaphorical, nor the ways in which they trip me up. Days when I start out feeling ambitious and ready to tackle the world usually end in disappointment, as often as not with more new piles added than old piles dealt with.

In the past, I’ve been inclined to think of my finitude as a consequence of sin, like mortality and death. I don’t like being finite, and I’m constantly fussing and fighting against my finitude; so I’ve assumed that it must be a bad thing, something to be overcome. But that’s not right. Being a finite creature is not a curse and consequence of sin. On the contrary, trying to live as though I were or could be infinite is at the heart of my sinfulness, an assertion of my self-idolatry. Bucking up against my finitude ought to be a call to repentance, not for being finite, but for acting as though I were an independent, self-sufficient being. Wanting to be able to do it all, to be the best at everything, and to be everywhere at once is a covetous desire to be God.

It is true that sin exacerbates and burdens our finitude, just as it weighs upon every other aspect of our being. In our sinful unbelief, we run away and hide from the Author and Giver of life, which surely does result in our falling apart and wasting away over time. But we are finite creatures, not because the Lord has destined us for death and destruction; it is rather because He has created us to live by grace through faith in Him. We are not designed to make and to manage a life for ourselves, but to be loved and served by God, and to receive life from Him.

Living be grace through faith in the Holy Triune God means living within the parameters of my stations in life, and not coveting more than I’ve been given or could ever handle. Recognizing my limitations is not a cause for despair, but to be turned toward Him who opens up His hand to satisfy the desire of every living thing. For my every sin and failure, there is the free and full forgiveness of Christ the Crucified, who died for me and shed His blood for me. But my finitude is not a sin to be confessed and forgiven. It is to be a creature of the Creator, an object of His divine love and gracious providence, for Jesus’ sake (that the only-begotten Son might be the firstborn of many brethren by grace). For receiving all things from the One who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, this finite creature lives forever.

1 comment:

Sloppy Classical said...

May your awareness of your finitude bless you with the ability to discern (as Judge Alito spoke to the grads at ST Mary's) "matters that are essential and fundamental from matters that are simply important."