The Self-Limited God

The Everlasting. The Omnipotent. The I AM. The One without physical form, without physical space, without limits of any kind. This God, the Alpha and Omega, Creator of all things, took on the form of His creation. We repeat this often, and quote scriptures about it, but I wonder if we truly grasp the enormity of it.

Many religions have stories of deities who took on human form. These deities were either already limited in power and as flawed as humans, or they merely appeared human temporarily to deliver messages or enjoy themselves while retaining all of their power. Only this one is different.

He didn’t appear as an emperor or great warrior. He didn’t appear surrounded by prestige and wealth. He came as a baby. An actual baby, not the perverted vision of one. He arrived squalling and cold, blinded by even the dim light of a candle-lit clay-walled barn, flailing limbs not answering any but reflexive signals from the still-developing brain of a human infant. He could have exerted power to change that, but He didn’t.

He lived as a child, experiencing the bumps and bruises and frustrations of learning to accomplish tasks using human hands and feet. He submitted with respect and honor to the training given Him by human parents whose own understanding of His law was flawed and stumbling. He endured the privation that was part of the life of a poor working family, and faced the inevitable injuries and humiliations of apprenticeship in a manual trade. He could have exerted power to change all that, but He didn’t.

He became a nomad without home or income, endured starvation, thirst, exposure, and fatigue. He wept and raged, prayed and laughed. He expended all of the energy His human body could contain on others, teaching and comforting. What power He chose to access as a grown man was also directed solely into others, even when hardship brought him to the brink of His human mortality. He became the subject of taunts, the target of prideful rage, and the focus of selfish demands. He could have exerted power to change all that, but He didn’t.

He was dragged to trial for crimes He didn’t commit, beaten and humiliated and tortured as nothing more than a pawn in a political game. Railroad spikes were pounded through the nerve bundles in His wrists and ankles before He was left to hang from a beam for hours, every breath an agony, His life slowly dripping away in the blood that oozed from wounds not allowed to close. He could have exerted power to change all that, but He didn’t.

Can you imagine what it must have been like? Can you imagine being limitless and yet trapped inside human limitations? Can you imagine being in that situation by your own choice alone? Can you imagine choosing such humiliation to rescue your creation that had rejected you, that would despise you for the poverty-stricken and unimpressive position you had chosen, that would still somehow be unable to ignore your truth and would hate you so much for it they would destroy your human life?

His body was wrapped in linen and hastily placed in a donated tomb. Because the Passover Sabbath had begun, the usual burial rites involving fragrant oils to preserve the body were delayed until Sunday. On Sunday morning, after having been released from His self-imposed limitations, as His human body showed signs of decomposition and decay, He once again stepped into it and changed it irrevocably. By that unfathomable action, He freed all of humanity as well. What a wondrous, unimaginable, selfless, self-limiting, unfathomable God.

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