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Embracing My Limits

I am, by nature, a challenger. My motto, for much of my life, was pretty close to, "Where there's a will, there's a way." But as I'm getting older, I'm learning that sometimes, the way forward is to embrace my limits and live in what is.

Defying the Hurricane

Several years ago, a life coach once gave me a scenario of a community facing a hurricane (timely in light of Fiona and Ian). He wanted me to imagine the scene and to find myself in it. What role was I playing?

As he described the scene, I knew my role right away - the picture was vivid and strong and immediate. He started asking about the roles people normally identify with: a victim in need of rescue, one of the rescue workers, incident commander, dispatcher, triage nurse, etc.

He paused and asked me, which of those roles do you identify with?

"None." was my response. "I'm standing on the beach, feet firmly planted, defying the hurricane, telling it to turn around."

And this one image and statement pretty much sum up the way I've lived much of my life.

In my mind, there has always been another way. The accepted answers couldn't be the only ones. I kept looking, kept asking, kept pushing, convinced that a way that felt right would finally emerge. I was tenacious and determined... and often, this perseverance paid off. There were many times when my fierce focus actually produced something that looked remarkably like the kingdom of God.

Refusing Reality

But there were plenty of other times when my stubborn doggedness produced nothing by exhaustion - in myself and in the people in my life. My refusal to let things be what they were sometimes caused more trouble than there was to begin with.

It had to do with my unwillingness to live in reality - to embrace good and beautiful limits. And I'm not the only one who struggles here.

In Good Company

Adam & Eve struggled to live within the limit in the garden when they ate the fruit of the one tree that was off limits to them. King Saul got himself in trouble when he strayed into the role of a priest and offered a sacrifice before Samuel arrived. David pursued a woman that was already married. The list of people in the Bible who refused their limits goes on and on.

It seems that human beings just don't like limits. We all want to be infinite, immortal, eternal.

When I fight the reality of the way God creates the world, I fight the beautiful goodness of my humanity. When I try to find my satisfaction in my own power, force belonging in places I don't belong, or create security where it doesn't exist, I cross the lines that are lovingly drawn for me and I demand that things be different.

The Grace to Accept the Things I Cannot Change

I cannot demand that I have a different past. When I heap condemnation on myself for choices I made 20 years ago, I am resisting the reality of the kingdom of God. I am powerless to change those choices. I did what I did. It's done.

Forgiveness is the willingness to accept that there is nothing I can do to change the past. I can own my choices, acknowledge how they affected others, apologize, ask for forgiveness, but I cannot rewrite the story. I used to berate myself for those choices, defying the reality that exists. But it's exhausting and fruitless.

God has limited me in that I can only live in the current moment.

I can't dictate the future. I can do my best to align myself with the reality that exists in God's kingdom and choose accordingly, but I cannot force things to happen the way that I envision they should go. I cannot demand that other people make certain choices or behave in alignment with my chosen future. I can only ask God, act within my limits, and accept what comes.

Becoming Infinite By Embracing Limits

And here's the crazy twist. When I am in Christ, I actually AM infinite, immortal, eternal! I become everything that Jesus is when I embrace the limits that are mine as a human being.

When I recognize my need, my dependence, my limited nature, my inability to make myself new, my powerlessness to change the world in my own strength, and throw my arms open and cry out, "I need you, Jesus!" In that moment, I am swept up into the infinite, immortal, eternal kingdom of God.

When I embrace my design as a limited human, I become infinite in Christ - his strength made perfect in my weakness.

Good Limits

God's limits are good for me. Living a limited life is a good and freeing thing. My understanding is limited and that's OK. I don't have to figure out everything. It's not my task to make sure the world works in a particular way. It's not up to me to make sure everyone and everything is OK. I can relieve myself of that responsibility.

I think this is what God has in mind when he told his people to rest from everything on the Sabbath day. It's the reminder that I am limited. I need rest, refreshment, relaxation, relationship. I need to be... not just do.

I am most at peace when I accept my limitations and embrace God's good design.

Right now, embracing my limits looks like:

  • going to bed when I'm tired, even if it means missing out on something or leaving something unfinished

  • spending 5-minutes every morning and evening in appreciation and gratitude for what is

  • continuing to work out even when I'm busy because that's what I've learned my body needs

  • and putting quality relational time on my calendar every week.

How do you embrace your limits? What are some of your practices?

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