When is too far, too far?
“You have gone too far.” This is probably one of the most common exclamations to hear from your parents when you are a teenager exploring the world, inspecting life, making silly decisions (or this is what you say about them when you grow up). However, it is not rare to hear it even when you are an adult. Maybe it is still one of your parents who would say that; or, more likely, it could be your boss at work; or, if you are the boss, it could be one of your employees who shouts that in your face after a discussion. Most likely a resignation letter would follow this discussion.
“You have gone too far.” It reminds me of the car parking sensors when they begin to beep, or to be musical or cinematographic, it is like the orchestra crescendo during the key scenes of the movie. It starts very slow, like the sound of a sweet violin or a flute, then it increases, the cellos and the contrabass comes in, followed by the wind instruments. It grows more and more, the percussion joins the music, the cymbals clash, the bass drum punctuates the rhythm, which is faster, faster, and suddenly… Boom! The car crashes into a pole, the timpani closes the crescendo and there is silence.
“You have gone too far.” A deafening silence.
The climax of a bad choice, the sound of a word that was not supposed to be said; this is what this exclamation is like. A finger that points right between your wide open eyes and an angry tone of voice that sounds like a threat. It has nothing to do with the mechanical politeness of the satnav, which asks you, “as soon as possible make a U-turn.”
However, the truth is that the effect that this expression has on us (as listeners), is directly proportional to the relationship that we have with the one who says those words. Let me explain. I would not mind too much if my boss, who is not that nice to me at work says that. Rather, the answer that you probably are thinking of, if it is not a “who cares”, is “Me?! What about you, doing nothing all day and complaining asap?!” CONFESSION: It happened to me. What he says hasn’t much value. However, if it is someone whom you love who says that, then things change. As humans able to feel love and care, we do not want to disappoint people, especially those who we care for. As soon as we are made aware of that step “too far” we took, we feel disoriented. We feel like we are in a place of unfamiliarity and uncertainty. Above all, the fear of the inability to go back to where we were before oppresses us. Whether it is your partner, a friend, your parents, your children, “You have gone too far” hits you in the stomach and stings your heart, making you unable to move because there is no way to go back.
There is a correlation between when too far is too far and who says that. For your boss, the 5 minutes of delay may be the step that leads you too far. For someone who loves you, that boundary, the line that divides their love for you from disappointment, anger, sadness, is much thicker than what you thought it ought to be. It is very difficult, then, to cross that line, to move from a place of favour, to the “(too) Far away Kingdom”.
We can call that line the “grace line”.
In the relationship with God, we can say that everyone walks on that line. Everyone. Once we welcome Jesus in our life, we are born (again) on that line, we build a house on that line, we work while we live on that line, we make all good choices on that line. Basically, all of our lives take place on that line. Even the bad decision, even the time we fall and we do not feel good enough for God. Even when we think that we have gone too far.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph 2:4–5)
The grace line divides the eternity in God’s presence from a life without God. The truth is that, just like we can feel on the edge in a relationship with someone, we can feel the same in our relationship with God when we make bad decisions. The difference lies in the fact that while in a relationship we can cross that line — and most of the time we are on the edge, we are more likely to do so — we cannot cross that line in our relationship with God. Not because we are good, but because God is. Nonetheless, the truth is that when we live on the edge, the constant fear of being slipped beyond the grace line will always be there. The continuous noise to not be good enough for God’s love, or for having a relationship with God, will always be loud.
In Luke 15:1–7, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep and a stubborn shepherd. Stubborn because he does care about where the sheep can be lost, he does not care if he has to walk miles and miles. He does not care to go “too far” to find that sheep and bring it home. He simply does it. He does not question himself of any of the previous. For that shepherd that one sheep has the same value of the flock of ninety-nine. Jesus is that shepherd that has come, without questioning if it was worth dying on the cross. He did it. He walked to “Too far away from the kingdom” to extend the grace line.
Surely, God does not want us to walk on the edge of the grace line; he wants us to enjoy the blessing of living on the inner part of the grace line, as close as we can to him. Because this will help us to be able to listen to his voice that says, “I have come to rescue you. You cannot go too far from me.”
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:12)