I think we’re hard-wired by our culture to hate them – or at least see them as obstacles to be overcome, avoided, or loop-holed. We are told we can only drive so fast, that our bodies actually need so many hours of sleep, that our brains literally cannot multi-task, and that we can’t put both work & family first.
Yet we still try.
Sometimes we disagree with the limit. Sometimes we think it shouldn’t apply to us. Sometimes we believe we’re the exception. Sometimes we tell ourselves it’s a temporary trade-off.
But we are always ALWAYS trying ways to avoid our limitations. Physical, societal, legal, ethical, and practical. No matter what kind of limit – we often tell ourselves it doesn’t/can’t/shouldn’t apply to us.
When we think of the Apostle Paul, we think of a guy who GOT THINGS DONE. He founded churches, preached, taught, wrote most of the New Testament – all after his later-in-life conversion.
Wow. What a power-worker. Talk about superhero-level productivity!
But here’s what he wrote to the church in Corinth:
But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others.2 Corinthians 10:13-15
Not going beyond limits.
Sticking to what God assigned to me.
In Romans 12:3 he tells the people in the local church that each of them should “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned”
He speaks of this “thorn in the flesh” that impedes his ability to do all he wants. He admits he is like a weak “clay jar” carrying around the important gospel of Jesus.
Clearly, Paul had a healthy sense of what he could NOT do.
Discontentment is the only end result when we refuse our limits. We will always be frustrated, disappointed, and frantic. We will only find true, lasting contentment when we admit, accept, and live inside the limits that have been placed on our lives.
(today’s reflection was HEAVILY influenced by something I read in Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership:Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton. Highly recommended. Chapter 7 “Living Within Limits” – clearly hit home for me)
In Exodus 18 Moses is confronted by his father-in-law Jethro. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Exodus 18:14-18
(Side Note: This entire chapter is worth reading, as Jethro is just finding out how hard Moses is working as Jethro arrives with Moses’ wife and kids – because Moses had been working so hard he had sent them away. Nice work/life balance there Moses!)
Do you have a Jethro in your life who has said something along the lines of “you can’t keep this up!”
If so – how did you react? Do you admit your limits?
If not – imagine someone coming into your life who sees everything you do – and has care for you like Jethro did for his son-in-law.
What would they say to you?
Sit with that for a while. What limits are you avoiding / denying / pushing?
How can you change your life to live within the limits God has set for you now at this time, stage, and season, of your life?
you have given me good gifts,
but not all gifts.
You have things for me to do,
and so many more things NOT for me to do.
Help me see that, accept that, and live in that.
You are all powerful – I am not.
You can be everywhere at once – I cannot.
You will do everything people need – I wont.
Give me grace to accept these truths.
Help me live in the limits you have made for me.