I squirmed in my seat. Knowing that the order of participating voices was rounding the table in my direction, I looked for an escape route. The paper on the table in front of me stared up with the same unflinchingness I showed it in return. I knew I would be asked to share its contents when my turn came, and my mind rolled over plans on how to deflect when it did.
I was sitting in a staff meeting and we were going over the results of our leadership style personality tests. Each person was sharing the results of his or her 30-question assessment, and I felt utterly exposed. There on the paper in front of me were my own results – my strengths in leadership and my weaknesses in leadership (both of which are many and varied). And between the results tally line and the diagrams I felt stuck. They pinned me down, defined me, ordered me, and bound me in with their descriptors of how I interact with others on a team, how I respond to stress, and when I abandon a project. The gall.
There is something unsettling to me about personality tests. While they offer insight into how God has wired us and the people in our lives, they also seek to define us in ways that made me squirm. They reveal us, unearthing our tendencies and habits. They teach us that we get our energy from being alone or with others, whether or not we are drawn to dominance or shy away from it, and how our minds process things like change and goals and information. The aim of these assessments is to know and understand yourself. And they successfully remind us: we are, indeed, knowable.
Perhaps it is my inner Millennial, but these assessments rattle me because they remind me that I’m not as unpredictable or complex as I once thought. When I first took Myers-Briggs in college, I was amazed at what it revealed. It seemed to give words and descriptions to all the ways I was wired, somehow making me feel simultaneously complex and understood – and I relished it. But as I get older, the test results remain largely unchanged, and each assessment is a reminder of my limits. Though I want to conceive of myself as a dynamic person of endless depth, the results reveal: I am fundamentally knowable.
The limits of our humanity afford to you and me a great reminder: God alone is incomprehensible. He alone is limitless. This is why the Psalmist says, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). God alone rules sovereignly in the universe, extending beyond the limits of time, space, and human imagination. Even Job, who conversed with God about His ways in the world, acknowledged: “Behold, these are but the outskirts of His ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?” (Job 26:14)
God alone has no boundaries. His being has no limitations. He cannot be boxed in by a graph or defined on a chart. No assessment or test or evaluation can fully capture the person of the Divine. He is infinitely incomprehensible.
And yet …
It is this same God who has definitively made Himself known to us! The God of no boundaries or limitations, has offered to you and me the gift of knowing Him. Through His revealed Word and ways, He has extended to you and me the peace of truly knowing Him. This is why Peter says with confidence, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises …” (2 Peter 1:3).
Instead of looking at the incomprehensibility of God and drowning in despair, we have the gift of looking to Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2, Galatians 6:14). The limitless God bound Himself to time and space, taking on the restrictions of humanity in the Incarnation. When we consider the vastness of God and wonder if we can truly know Him, we can look to Christ – God in flesh! God made knowable to us! God humbled by human limitations so that you and I could be brought into the family of God.
Though you and I are bound by limitations, we have been invited to know and live in relationship with the limitless One. God, in His kindness, has opened the way for us to know Him – both intimately in our inner lives and robustly with our minds. Limited as we are, God has invited us to learn and love His divine Self-Expression; as we study the Word and engage theology, we lean into this invitation, accepting our place in God’s great plan for His people (which, of course, is why both theological Bible study is so important).
Today, you and I will be reminded of our limits. We will wake to routines we can’t remember living without. We will react in predictable ways because of how He has made us and how our lives have shaped us. We will be knowable and limited and defined. And, in the face of these reminders, we can turn our faces towards the Limitless One with worship, adoration, affection, and hunger. And we can, with humble joy and earnest gratitude, repeat the biblical reality:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How searchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” … But let him who boasts boast in this, that He understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8-9; Jeremiah 9:24)