Friday, April 29, 2011


I was thinking about Jennifer @ Conversion Diary’s resolve to put up a post about the meaning of every single word of the Our Father, and I was picking out in my mind the difficult ones - “in”, “thy”, “as”, “it”. That was just how it seemed to me - as if, flowing along the words of that phrase, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, this one word, “as”, was written in bold. What did it mean? Why did that word suddenly strike me as profound, in a nonspecific sort of way?

So I started thinking about what that word, “as”, meant. It reminded me of another “as”, the one where Jesus says “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”(Matt 5:48). That phrase has provided a dilemma for me, a riddle. The saints and theologians all seem to say that we cannot actually attain perfection in this life, only in the next. But if so, why would Jesus say it?

And pondering it, I suddenly saw something.

Life is an asymptote.

For those of you less familiar with mathematical terms, an asymptote is one of those funny things that you get with certain equations, (most often when you get close to dividing by zero). If you have an asymptote, the graph of your equation will never quite touch some line that it is getting close to - but it will literally never stop getting closer and closer to it, either.

Let’s say that God’s will as it is done in heaven is 42*. Praying that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven means that you’re not satisfied with 40 on earth. It means that if the earth reached 41.9, you wouldn’t stop and say “This is good enough for me. I’m staying here.” You don’t let things just level off, remaining a permanently fixed distance from perfection. Even at 41.99999999999, you’re still striving, still fighting the good fight to inch us that much closer to God’s will as it is in heaven.

It’s important that we remember that God always loves us, whether we’re at 40 or a negative billion. We don’t say “as”, as if our eternal lives depended on reaching that “as” on earth. Our peace, our joy in God comes long before we approach perfection. But we keep striving for it, yearning for it, and praying for it, because we know that every little bit closer that we get, is totally worth it.

* If you’re on the internet and don’t know why I picked 42, I’d be a little shocked. But if so, go see 42.

1 comment:

  1. I love how you put this, Anna. So glad your mathematical mind can give me-- someone with no math-mind whatsoever-- another perspective. :)