I’m Finite, How Are You?

By

“Everywhere I go I see you.” Rich Mullins

Lately, when people have asked “How are you?” I’ve been tempted to alter the usual “Fine” to “Finite.” That’s just how life’s been in recent months, a bit of an exercise in appreciating limits.

I’ve been reminded again and again that some of what I’ve held on to with both hands has been more like sand than solid rock. Like the old cartoons, I have thrown high my rope, climbed it hand over hand into the sky, only to find there was nothing up there. Like the cosmonauts who went to space and announced that they had discovered God wasn’t there, I have looked in the wrong places. Or looked the wrong way.

Our brother Jack Lewis said the cosmonauts might as well have looked in Hamlet’s attic for Shakespeare.

Are you there God? It’s me, Boris. You know, the one with the beard.

Where is God?

God is invisible, but only in a certain sense. He is active, present, vocal, and, well, obvious. In Romans 1, Paul makes it plain that men are accountable because the truth about God’s presence, power, and provision is clear.

This is why not being thankful is like rebellion, which is like witchcraft. It’s a perverse response. It’s one I’m frequently guilty of having.

“God is hidden in vocation,” Luther said. He is there, working to serve a billion ends by a billion means. He is there when the farmer plants, reaps, and sells. He has called the farmer to it. He is there when the driver transports the bread to the store. If the driver blesses God when he buys gas then he is right –even if it’s five dollars a gallon. God is feeding people. Sometimes he sends bread direct from heaven, but more often it’s from a grocery store or a mom’s oven. He calls a lot of people along the way for this work.

God can give water to his children from a rock, but more often he uses faucets. Still, it is no less from him.

I’m not saying I understand all this, but I’m getting more comfortable with the presence and provision of God in what our modernist minds have called “natural,” or “ordinary” places. Is any place ordinary? Is fog or moss ordinary? Life is magical, charged with glory and light. No amount of indoctrination can fog that up forever. The true Story will escape.

Again, Romans 1 talks about what you have to do to ignore the hand of God. You have to hold it down. Actively. You have to suppress it. It will bubble up through every hole unless you run around like mad plugging here and stepping there, scheming, stomping, working like crazy to keep it down.

Though we are finite, God is providing for us everywhere we turn. In major ways. In minor ways. How can we be blind to it? Maybe you, like me, need to be reminded. Maybe we need wizards, not so much to put a spell on us, but to remove one.

Sometimes it’s books or songs that tear away at the carefully crafted shackles we have allowed around our wrists, the bonds that blind us to the evident wonder of God’s great provision. Sometimes it’s a holy encounter with a saint. Sometimes it’s math, basketball, corn dogs, Victoria Falls, making love, babies, adoption, a painting, a person failing well, a fancy car, poetry, or water, or bread, or wine.

St. Augustine confessed that he was wrong to marvel at the miracle at Cana, where Jesus turned water to wine, and not at the miracle that every single cup of wine has always been changed from water to wine by God. This is the God who sends rain, gives sunshine, and causes grapes to grow. It’s he who always makes water into wine. It is he who gives us daily bread.

Speaking of wine and bread: The sharp point of God’s provision is celebrated by Christians everywhere in these two gifts. Bread and wine.

It’s in the cross that we see the greatest provision for our greatest need. Jesus is the sharp point of God’s provision. But it’s not only there, it’s everywhere.

Ask for eyes and then look around.


27 Comments

  1. JWitmer

    “Sometimes it’s books or songs that tear away at the carefully crafted shackles we have allowed around our wrists…”

    …and sometimes it’s an essay like this.

    I’m glad you found some time to write. Thanks for sharing this. It made a refreshing 5-min. break at my natural, ordinary job.

  2. SarahN

    Amen to all of this. I need to be reminded too often!
    I knew that a post beginning with such a quote from Rich Mullins was going to be something I needed to hear.

  3. Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

    Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    Oh, SD, this is fantastic. Thanks for writing it. CS Lewis, I think it was, pointed out how many of Jesus’s miracles were just accelerated instances of what he’s doing all the time.

  4. CyndaP

    “That is why not being thankful is like rebellion…”

    My mother was recently diagnosed with an advance state of cancer and has gone from being self-sufficient to completely bed-ridden in less than three months. What has kept me sane is the admonition to “Be thankful in all things.” Not “for” all things but “in” all things. It is amazing to see God at work in the mundane details and minutiae of carry for my mom. That’s not to say that I don’t question what is happening, but even in the questioning He is gentle and loving to me. Oh, how I love Him!

  5. Breann

    If I had to sum up what the Rabbit Room community has taught me these past few years it’s this, to keep my eyes open. Thanks, SD, for this reminder of God’s presence and provision.

  6. Jesse D

    Thanks for this, SD. I’ve found myself aware the past few days of a sense of anger/bitterness over the brokenness of our culture and world, and the willingness of so many to wade in the mud that’s been sold them. (Is that a mixed metaphor? Sometimes I’m really bad at detecting those.) You’ve reminded me that God ordains our world to be how it is for a reason, and that while it’s not yet what it’s supposed to be, He’s getting it there. Anger and bitterness is the wrong response when I’ve been granted so much, and when I’m, as you stated, finite. He knows better than me – fancy that.

  7. lefthand30

    This post reminds me of “First Dance” by Eric Peters on April 6, 2011. Both of them are good smacks upside my head that return my focus. Thank you.

  8. Dryad

    This reminds me of _The Great Divorce_. The people in that book either saw God in everything, or they saw God in nothing. I was going to go somewhere with this, but I can’t marshal my thoughts into a semblance of order that other people could understand. Maybe someone else could pick up this idea for me?

  9. D.L. McLain

    “There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me. The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet. On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a branch, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running, the girl sweeping water off her hair and her dress as if she were a little bit disgusted, but she wasn’t. It was a beautiful thing to see, like something in a myth…it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash…This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.”

    Marilynne Robinson-Gilead

    As I read this today I thought it related, and as a token of my affection to the simple blessings of this community, I thought I’d share.

  10. sallie kate

    Show me, LORD, my life’s end
    and the number of my days;
    let me know how fleeting my life is.
    You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
    Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.
    psalm 139:4-5

    We are but dust–yet He fills us with HIS breath.

  11. Beth

    Sam…first time I have read your writings. Will be back often. I leave today challenged and in awe of Him.

  12. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    JWitmer –Thanks, man. It’s been very good to have you in this community. Boy, you fit right in.

    SarahN –Thank you. Me too.

    JR –Accelerated instances….nice. Thanks for that.

    Cyndap –Peace to you, Dear. I read a book recently that addressed suffering not as the forming of a question about if there was good, or if God was good, but that it was an answer. It sounds like you are giving a faithful answer in your pain. God be with you.

    Breann –Thanks, as always, for the encouragement. And me too. Hey, have you ever read Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl by ND Wilson? Amazing. You’d love it.

    JesseD –Thanks for sharing that angle. That helps. I didn’t really acknowledge the subject in avery comprehensive manner. Just a kind of shot across the bow of my blindness (mixed metaphors?).

    Lefthand30 –To be compared with the incomparable Eric Peters. What a gift! Thanks. I loved that essay, and love that guy.

    Jazz —Me too.

    Dryad –Yes. This as been maybe the big thing that I’m learning (or being allowed) to see lately. Everything that helps me in that way I am treasuring. Like Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl, as I mentioned above. What helps me see this? What obscures it? That makes my choices clearer. Thanks.

    DL McLain –Wow. Love that. Thank you so much for sharing it. And thanks for sharing in this community. People like you make it what it is. Bless you.

    Sallie Kate –Word. Thanks so much.

    Beth –Wow. Thank you! That’s a great result. Makes me happy and thankful.

    Don Smith –Maybe we’re related.

  13. Mike

    Thanks. I always thank of “Samwise” when I read your stuff. I had a “chance” encounter with porn actor on the Stanton Island Ferry a few weeks back on a mission trip to Brooklyn. It was amazing that the Christ in me and the Christ in him had a wonderful conservation. I just sat there and listened.

  14. April

    I needed to read this. I’ve been feeling numb today — thanks for the beautiful reminder that God is not absent.

    The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil…
    [Gerard Manley Hopkins]

  15. sofia

    April–the very same poem by GM Hopkins came to mind as I read! That poem and “Pied Beauty” have at different times been the instruments to free me from the shackles of forgetfulness of God’s presence, like S.D talked about.

    Given the variety of people posting here, and the bits noted above, I’m curious to know a sampling of art–writing, visual art, music…etc–that has acted as the “wizard… to remove the spell” for people here. I have my own list, such as the poems listed above along with “On Fairy Tales” by Tolkien, but would be interested in other works to discover.

  16. JWitmer

    SOFIA, my current list:

    Counting Stars & Far Country by AP
    Chrome & Scarce by EP
    my wife’s gardens: WifeMotherGardener.blogspot.com
    The Rabbit Room
    The Gospel of Amazement by Michael Card
    The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson
    Bigelow Vanilla Chai (cheap AND good)

  17. Loren

    Great reminder! And I love the quotes others have brought out that this comment reminded them of. It just adds to the beauty.

  18. Osage11

    S.D., this comes at a perfect time when my rebellion in just about everything has all but blined me to God’s work in my life. I beleive this post has helped lift a fog that has kept me from seeing the beauty of God in all His wonderful detail.
    Thank you.

  19. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Sofia, I think your idea is excellent and I may try to post about this and open it up to everyone to chime in with their own lists, like JWitmer did. I’d like to see that.

    And thanks for yet another reminder (and April) to dive into GM Hopkins. New to me, I’ve just dipped my toes so far.

    Thanks you guys, for the all the kind comments.

    Osage11, thank you for sharing that. Praying for you now.

    “I may falter in my steps, but never beyond your reach.” Rich Mullins

  20. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    I will say that, as I mentioned above, the book Notes From The Tilt0A-Whirl has been huge for me in this area. So, Sofia, that would be way up there for me.

  21. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    S.D., Omnipresence is one of the least held doctrines in many of our minds. When we couple omnipresence with God working all things after the counsel of his own will, and God working all things together for good to them that love him, and actually reckon it true, count it as Fact, it’s a very powerful cocktail. It takes a lot of the sting out of seemingly negative situations, hurtful people, failures, lost hopes. It keeps us grateful when comfort and ease become routine for awhile.

    One of the beautiful things about George MacDonald is that he saw God in so many ways, in nature, in people, in situations, like a little child who starts with the basic assumption, “My father means only good toward me, is always teaching me, is always making me into the man I am to become.” I love this quote from Donal Grant:

    “You must mind what I say, and so help me to make a man of you,” said Donal.

    “It will be long before I am a man!” said Davie rather disconsolately.

    “It depends on yourself. The boy that is longest in becoming a man is the boy that thinks himself a man before he is a bit like one.”

    Seeing God, as you set forth in this post, this simple act of continual recognition, is the butler that opens the door of the treasure house of peace and maturity.

  22. dawngreen

    S.D. my friend,
    Sometimes I can feel that my ordinary life is so, well, …ordinary. And then I read this beautiful essay and I remember that nothing is ordinary if it is filled with Jesus. Nothing ordinary there. His provison and presence tranforms this job and this housework and everything around me. Thanks for the reminder to be ever thankful.

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