Yes, I Am Finite

Photo by hbieser

As a young(er) person I used to think, “Man, if I only had the money I would do this or that, go here or there, do things I can’t do right now.”

I still think that, sometimes, but the older I get the more I realize money is not the only, or even the primary, asset I need.

God has blessed me so sometimes I HAVE the money. What’s scarcer, and more precious, is other things: Time, for example. Also relationships, community, emotional capital, mental capacity.

I may be able to afford to go away for two months, living in an interesting or beautiful place, but I can’t afford the gash in my community that would create. I may be able to pay for a night out, but I can’t take the time. I can afford textbooks to study something I’m interested in but I don’t have the mental space: my work is already using that to the max.

As someone who loves to travel, experience, and learn, I am often frustrated by my own finitude.

On the other hand, I think coming to terms with finiteness is part of what it means to be humble.

In ancient Israel, God required the people to take a Sabbath one day every week during which they would not work. Modern studies show that Sabbath-keeping is actually the maximal way to live in terms of health and even productivity. But the whole thing is an interesting exercise in being consciously finite: you step back and say:

“Today I will not work, I will not determine my own provision, I will not affect my future. Today I will rest and recognize that I am not God.”

Photo by nicolas.boullosaI’m a believer in abundance and that God gives resources beyond what we can need. But I’m also a believer in recognizing that I am not God; I can’t, and I don’t have to, take on everything. God is unlimited, I am not.

Many years ago I was wondering why so many people in ministry seemed so burned out, and I heard the Lord say to my spirit, “Many of my people are carrying burdens I did not put on them.”

So I don’t take on every prayer request. I don’t follow every news story. I don’t pursue every study, every opportunity, every possible open door. I CAN’T.

Even Jesus, in his earthly life, didn’t. He limited his ministry to natural Israel. (A little over 8000 square miles, if Google is to be believed.) And it lasted for only three years.

One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is “Lord, enlarge my heart.” The Scriptures actually talk a lot about this concept of God enlarging, widening, increasing — giving us greater territory, widening our borders, actually making our hearts bigger. Enlarging our capacity. But I believe that goes in hand-in-hand with a kind of Sabbathing approach to life: Recognizing always that we are finite, receiving from the Infinite. Humbling ourselves before the One who has “the whole world in his hands.”

As ever, life in the kingdom is a paradox. Become a child, receive the heavens. Humble yourself; be exalted. Accept your limits; enter the limitless.

You cannot be, and you do not have to be, more than you are. It’s okay to live with limited assets and to need wisdom to manage them well. There is freedom in knowing we are not God, even as we worship and live within the One who is.







8 responses to “Yes, I Am Finite”

  1. Elisabeth Avatar

    Loving these thoughts!

    And to me, the photo looks like the desert in Israel, on the way to Eilat and the Red Sea. That looks like the right kind of speed limit sign, too.

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Hey, cool! Thanks for identifying it :). I’ve always been told that Israel and the Californian high desert are very similar ecosystems. Sounds like that’s right :).

  2. John Duncan Avatar
    John Duncan

    Hi Rachel,
    Thanks for a very timely message.

    1. Rachel Avatar

      You’re welcome, John! Thanks for your comment!

  3. Jacque Avatar

    Hi Rachel, Good article. I sent it to a friend who is fond of praying “God, enlarge our hearts.” I know she will enjoy this too. By the way, though the road sign doesn’t look “American,” the geography looks a lot like what is not far away from where I live! We drive the “high desert” roads to visit our kids in So. Cal and that could be one of them!
    Blessings your way.

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Thanks for passing it on, Jacque! I love that picture–not sure where it is, but it reminded me of the Californian High Desert as well. I actually lived there for several years in my teens, so it’s a special region to me!

  4. Leslie Avatar

    Thank you for this great reminder! I’ve been stuck in that, “If I only had more money” mindset for some time, having been unemployed for several months. But God has definately been using that time. For example I finally started pursuing my dream of indie publishing. I was letting the excuse of “I don”t have time” keep me from it. When really I was just scared! Anyway now I have time!

    But thanks again. It sounds limiting…to remember you are finate. But actually it is freeing!

    1. Rachel Avatar

      I love that, Leslie! That’s it exactly. It’s really freeing to embrace the reality about ourselves. And makes it all the more awesome to see how God uses our finite nature to accomplish his infinite plans.

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