Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Christians Can Have It All

Hymns about Heaven help me meditate on limits
Last night, my church hosted a panel discussion for the ladies on “Women in the Workplace.” I have a supreme appreciation for our elders’ view on women working. They both exalt masculinity and femininity in marriage while encouraging many women in our congregation to be faithful in the public square day to day. It demonstrates a desire to help the women of our congregation fight idolatry of both family and career. And, as happens with many discussions on this topic, it made me think about limits.

The first passage the pastor moderating the panel, Andy, had us look at was Genesis 3. Why a basic exposition of the Fall to start off a panel on women and working? Because Adam and Eve’s first sin was a direct assault on the concept of humanity as limited. God put Adam and Eve in the Garden with complete freedom to choose what is good, not absolute freedom: they could not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. These limits were perfect and kept them in communion with God. The first sin, then, was a denial of the limits that kept them in right relationship with their Creator. Adam and Eve noticed their humanity and were ashamed; they covered their nakedness.  In light of Adam’s sin, choices can make us resent our humanity and, as Andy said, “as long as we’re in a world that frustrates our desire for infiniteness” we will be plagued by the desire to “have it all.” The Fall was a denial of the true nature of the children of God.

While God never has to make tradeoffs - the supreme example being the display of both mercy and justice on the Cross - humans are bound to have to choose one thing over another. It is apparent in aspects of our lives as obvious as time and space: I can’t live in San Diego and Washington, DC at the same time no matter how much I might miss my family while simultaneously wanting to live in the same city as Dear Boyfriend. Andy pointed out that without a context for human limits, we tend to blame what is outside ourselves for our “frustrated infiniteness.” He said that we tend to say “there’s something wrong with the world because I can’t have both.” It reminded me of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic. While I agree wholeheartedly with her premise - women cannot “have it all” - her solutions were entirely based on the assumption that it is the culture’s fault. It’s the work culture, it’s the family culture; she blames anything but the lie that anyone should have everything he or she desires in this life.

But! the miraculous news for Christians is that we can have it all, albeit in a way that looks foolish to the world. The Christian’s supreme joy is in embracing her limitedness by praising her limitless God. When I say “His grace is sufficient,” I loose this world’s claim on me. If to live is Christ and to die is gain, the “all” of this world is nothing but rubbish. The great irony of the Christian life is, in embracing our limits, we inherit true, eternal and infinite freedom, only a taste of which we can have in this life. This theme has been coming up in my life more frequently and I am continuously struck by how freeing meditating on this has been. While God has given me just one life, I am to use it to glorify his name, no matter what happens to mine, and I can do that in ways that defy all of the expectations of the meritocracy that shaped me. I think of Great Awakening evangelist, George Whitefield’s (ironically) famous phrase: “Let the name of Whitefield perish so long as Christ is exalted.”

So here’s to limits. May we embrace them.


  1. Feeling so liberated and grateful right now. Thanks, Julia, for sharing.

  2. I could really relate to this, despite the fact that I'm a man. I especially liked the insight that: "I can do that in ways that defy all of the expectations of the meritocracy that shaped me." I think too many people confuse the reckless ambition of elite universities and their universe with real discernment, which is often discerning limits and your place within them.