It Always Happens Sooner or Later
It happens sooner or later in every relationship: someone will let you down. We have a term for the earliest stages of a relationship: the “honeymoon phase”—that rosy time period when everything but disappointment seems possible. We love the honeymoon phase because it requires no effort.
But then something happens—an unreturned phone call, an opinion we were not aware of, an annoying habit we had not noticed, a hidden character flaw, a weakness of some kind, a limit. We learn that our hero or our lover or our best friend does not possess limitless lovability. They are weighed and found wanting. And disappointment follows. We are faced with a dilemma: Will we try to force them back onto the pedestal they occupied during the honeymoon phase, or will we allow them to be, as the saying goes, “only human”?
This is why the Great Command takes such care to instruct us how to love those who are “only human.” It tells a limited human to love God and others as limitlessly as possible. But to love self and others as limitlessly as possible, we must learn to die daily to our propensity to measure and compare our limits.
How God Measures
Or, perhaps more accurately, we will have to learn to measure as God measures, to count as God counts. He counts our sorrows. They are not infinite. They are measurable: countable, contained, recorded:
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? (Ps. 56:8)
He measures our sins, yet his immeasurable grace exceeds them. Mercifully, our sins are finite in number, the product of finite beings:
But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Rom. 5:20)
He does not count our sins against us, because of Christ:
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Rom. 4:7–8)
And because of Christ, God urges us to learn to count others as Christ counted us:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Phil. 2:3)
He calls us to reevaluate the measures of our human successes:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Phil. 3:7–8)
And he changes the measure of our adversity from curse to blessing:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds . . . (James 1:2)
This exploration of ten attributes that belong to God alone reminds us of why our limits are a good thing in light of God’s limitlessness—celebrating the freedom that comes from letting God be God.
Relearning How to Count
Could it be that this process of growing in the fear of the Lord is a simple matter of relearning how to count? By learning to worship God in his immeasurability, by learning to take the measure of ourselves, our sin, our circumstances, and others accurately, we might at last come to say with David, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
It’s in that frame of mind that rivalry ceases and reflection commences. Our birth records announce that we are finite and therefore limited. Our limitations are by design.
Whether we spend the remainder of our lives denying or embracing this basic truth makes all the difference in how we will love God and others.