not limiting the infinite.

This past weekend I took my daughters on a hike through some gardens for Saint Patrick’s Day.  One garden in particular seemed to capture their imaginations, as it looked like a giant labyrinth.  In reality, it was quite easy to see the few paths available, and find your way back to where you started, but the girls loved pretending they were solving a giant mystery as they walked through the waste-high well manicured bushes.

This past week I was reading in 2 Timothy 2, and there is a point where Paul writes to Timothy seeming to appeal to Timothy’s appreciation of “several paths”.  Check out verses 2-6:

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.  Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

In just 5 verses, Paul uses 4 different analogies to describe a servant of the Lord.  A teacher, a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer.  I want to talk more specifically about these in another post, but for now I was struck simply by how many ways Paul tries to convey the message he’s writing to Timothy in the last moments of his own life.

It seems Paul knows that in each instance, he’s trying to contain a Truth about an infinite God in some sort of finite way.  Of course serving God isn’t completely like being a teacher.  It’s not 100% similar to being a soldier either (although some believe they are raising “God’s Army” even after seeing Jesus walk a different path).  If we only used the comparison of an athlete, our faith would get way too competitive.  If it was all about farming, well…we’d probably have WWJD overalls.

Anyone who’s tried to talk with their kids about an infinite God has come up against similar issues.  We often have conversations about the fact that God will someday come and make everything completely different than it is right now.  We talk about “New Creation” with our kids as the ultimate destination we look forward to, and explained that even Great-Grandpa is with Jesus right now, waiting for this New Creation.  How God is with us, even though we cannot see him. Every time a conversation like this happens – new questions are raised.

In all of these things, it’s not that we can completely contain God in our finite words, but that we continue to attempt to talk about God and point our children in that direction.  Just as Paul continues to use one analogy after another, so we continue to have conversations with our children that change as they age.  We cannot assume that getting them to pray a prayer when they’re 4 or 5 has “sealed the deal”, and not worry about developing them beyond that.  God is infinite, and continues to transform both us and our children as we talk about these things as we “walk along the road”. 🙂

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