I’m back in California now, returned from the great (and, in my heart, dearly loved) Pacific Northwest to the much browner (Mom calls it “golden”) locale of Northern California. Saying goodbye is always sad, and there are so may people who I will, and already do, deeply miss. But when people asked why I wasn’t staying, after offering the common sense reason of finances, it ultimately came down to a sense of it being “time to go.” Even now, in the midst of missing those friends and that place, it still feels fitting that I have left, at least for a season.
Prior to this recent transition, fittingness is something that I had not given much thought. It has, however, been a theme for various theologians over the years. Fritz Bauerschmidt has highlighted this idea in Aquinas’s thought (see Fred Sanders’s helpful summary, and inspiration for this post, here), and various others have used the idea of fittingness in an attempt to understand the twists and turns of salvation history.
The first few chapters of the Gospel of Matthew also have repeated “fitting” moments. Matthew crafts the genealogy in chapter 1 such that Jesus comes at the appropriate and fitting time of fourteen generations after the deportation to Babylon (1:17). He repeatedly highlights that the upheaval of Jesus’s childhood fits with the prophetic words given to Israel. Even Jesus himself, facing a reluctant John the Baptist, explains that John ought to baptize him “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15).
As I’ve thought about this idea, I have realized that fittingness is more than a logical sequence leading to an appropriate conclusion. It is more than something that merely makes sense. There is a vital aesthetic component – it appeals to our sense of beauty, attracting us by the way that certain moments fill out the story or provide a poetic counterpoint. When something occurs in a fitting way, it is beautiful.
Of course, our world is sadly filled with much ugliness. Not everything that happens is fitting. Needless suffering, while open to redemption, may never fully fit into our lives this side of eternity. It’s important to recognize this, lest we seek to cram every event in our lives into a box of fittingness.
But despite times of struggle, I think that God more often invites us to recognize fitting moments. As we begin to recognize these moments around us, we also have the opportunity to find the way that we fit into his story, the way he is seeking to bring his Kingdom to earth. This year, I suspect we will all have moments that don’t seem to fit, that don’t make sense to us (and perhaps, never will – hence, the need for faith). But we also have an opportunity to seek to conform ourselves ever more to the Spirit and his guidance, to find our lives, our spirits and our motives in a story that is ever more fitting with his.
When things fit, life is deeply beautiful. Here’s to fittingness in 2014.