Finitude: When God Steps In

Author: Sherri Gragg | | @authorsherrigragg

I will always remember the first moment I saw him. It was early, before the first bell rang at my children’s middle school. I walked through the office on my way to work in the school garden and there he was, waiting for the principal to arrive. It was a scenario all too familiar for him. 

For weeks, my kids had been bringing home reports of the “new kid” who gleefully wrought mayhem in every class. Now his eyes were meeting mine and to my surprise they weren’t hard, angry, or cruel. Mischievous, yes, but there was a sweetness too.

“A little early for the seat of doom, isn’t it?” I asked him. He laughed and nodded. “Stay out of trouble,” I called over my shoulder as I left.

Six years later, he was calling me “Mom” and sharing the room down the hall with my son who was his age. Six months after that, he was gone again. A year later, he was calling someone new “Mom,” and we were all left to mend the wounds left behind.

Holes in the walls, the shapes of his fists.

Bits of trust, broken in my children when I failed to protect them.

Dashed dreams of what our family was meant to be.

One autumn afternoon, I sat grieving on the back porch. His soccer ball lay abandoned in the yard, just where he left it the last time he played with it. I walked across the grass and picked it up as the tears poured down my cheeks. 

How could I have given so much, and fallen so short?

And now, I was left to face the hard truth that I had not only failed this wounded child, I had deeply failed my own children in the process. And despite my best efforts, I had allowed them to be deeply wounded as well.

What was the point of it all? I asked God over and over again. He has remained silent so far on that particular matter. Instead, he has led me back to face a lesson I have painfully learned so many times over the years. The fancy theological term is “finitude” but all that really means is that I am irrevocably, tragically, frailly...human.

My humanness means it is my very nature to find myself falling short, even sometimes, when I have given everything I have. 

Humans get tired. We make mistakes. We get impatient, cranky, sometimes hangry. We drop things, break things, and say things we didn’t mean to say. We run out of wisdom and strength, hope and faith.

It is a terribly difficult thing to accept this fragile, blundering humanness, especially when our shortcomings hurt those we love most. 

But here is the sweet in the sorrow- That border at the end of our abilities and resources? That is not untamed territory. It is the realm of an infinite, loving God.

As an author and mother of five, I sometimes feel I have had more than my fair share of opportunities to confront my limitations. I once read that writers face such ridiculous levels of criticism that in order to attain any measure of success it is necessary to first have skin as thick as an elephant. I humbly suggest that while that may be true, it is nothing compared to the resiliency required of mothers. Perhaps our tender hearts face even more harrowing dangers in a culture that seems addicted to condemnation and thirsty for blame.

I threw my walls of protection up high when I lost this boy who became my son. I knew my community, which had prayed so faithfully with me for him, wanted to know what had happened. But I just couldn’t. The wound was too raw. I needed to grieve in the safety of my faithful and compassionate God. And there I heard the same, sweet words he has whispered each and every time I found myself face down in the dust of my failures once again.

This is my realm, child. Give it to me. You are exhausted, but I never grow weary. You have reached the end of your resources, but mine never run out. I will carry your burden now.

Once, long ago, Jesus stood on the steps of the Temple in Jerusalem and called to all who were stumbling under the weight of the many ways they had fallen short. He saw their weariness, their brokenness and despair, and his heart was moved with compassion.

*“Come to me,” he called them. “All of you who are exhausted, come. You who have fallen short, come! All of you who stumble beneath the load of expectations you can never meet, come. I will take the burden from your shoulders and give you rest for your weary souls.”

Slowly, I am learning that isn’t cowardice to let God carry the things I can’t. It isn’t irresponsibility, to let it go and trust he will take it from there. I am learning to stop struggling against what I can’t control and rest in love and grace. This is my birthright as a child of God.

Maybe being human isn’t so bad after all.

*A paraphrase of Matthew 11:28

Editor’s Note; Sherri Gragg is a mother to 5 children and an author. She loves ancient history, archeology, Middle Eastern culture, and the Jewish roots of Christianity. Keep a look out on our instagram for a giveaway of her new book “Advent: The Story of Christmas”.

Elisa EarwickerComment