The Geometry of Life

When I taught fifth grade, I loved to integrate our math unit in geometry with Bible class. Have you ever thought deeply about lines and line segments and rays and points? Lines, especially, give me a stomach ache, and my classes often experienced the same reaction.

A line is one-dimensional and goes on forever. Try to think about forever. I drew a line on the chalkboard for the entire length of the board, an arrow pointing away on both ends:

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Depending on the geographical placement of my classroom, I gave a speech similar to what follows. “To my left, this line continues off the board, through the window, across the parking lot, goes all the way through Indiana, then to outer space until it’s beyond our solar system, our galaxy, and beyond the farthest galaxy that we know about.” I moved to the right and repeated a similar set of markers. Long before I finished, the class was moaning as the idea of forever began to sink in.

God’s existence has no beginning and no end. Excruciating to our finite minds.

As a child, I tried to picture forever. My mind traveled as far as the stars beyond my vision, and then, and then… and then…….. I pictured a kite sailing in a blue sky. Imagination had to return to earth; I couldn’t see forever. Humans can’t handle the concept. For now, we are finite beings. We even hesitate to seek the ecstasies of heaven when we consider eternity. Won’t it get boring if there’s no end to it?

Continuing the lesson, I offered a little mercy and moved on to rays. Every person can be compared to a ray. Each of us has a starting point.

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Ahhh, starting points we understand. We were born, we started school on a certain day, summer vacation would start in a month. Then I added a line in one direction that goes on–you’ve got it–forever.

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The students’ groaning started anew. People have a beginning, but they have no end. Either they live forever with God in heaven, or they exist in hell forever without Him. While my limited mind can’t wrap itself around the glories of heaven forever, I’m smart enough to know that I don’t want to exist in a vacuum or in pain for any amount of time, much less forever. My students were smart, too.

Moving on to line segments was easy. Time on earth is a line segment.

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You’re born, you live your life, you die. Life on earth has a beginning and an end.

Points became the challenge for reflection. A line, which goes on forever, is made up of points. One… after the other… You can’t count them in a line; they are of infinite number. (Another chorus of groans) But each point is significant.

I completed the analogy by demonstrating how each point is a single human life on earth making up the line of eternity. What we do with that little dot of time is significant. Will we help other people or only help ourselves? Will we love God or ignore Him? Will we work hard and produce good things, or will we be lazy and produce nothing of value? What I choose to do with my point on eternity has a bearing on which direction I eventually continue as a ray.

The lesson was complete. The kids never had a problem remembering those four terms in geometry, and I hope more than one discussion on the “geometry of life” enlivened dinner table conversations later in the evening.

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