Embracing the Gift of Limits
Updated: Feb 4, 2021
God's plan for you is maturity. For you to not only do the things Jesus did and know the words of Jesus, but also feel the way of Jesus. Jesus was fully human. He felt all the feels. He was sad, calm, passionate, confident, and angry, though he didn't sin. Over and over again in Scripture we see Jesus in deep feelings. And yet, we also see him in control of those feelings. He wasn't forcing them in the trunk and pretending they didn't exist. He wasn't frantically trying to fix them and he also wasn't handing them the keys to his car so they could drive him wherever they felt. He buckled his feelings in the passenger seat and he took them to the Father.
We would be wise to learn from his examples. I know so many people who don't know how to manage their feelings. They force, fix or fear them, instead of facing and embracing them. Learning to face our feelings is a part of our spiritual journey. We can only ever be as spiritually mature as we are emotionally healthy.
One of the ways we grow up is learning to embrace our gift of limits. When we live outside our limits we limit the limitless power and presence of God in our lives.
Think about this - Jesus could do anything and yet, he didn't do everything. Jesus lived within his limits. When he prayed to the father in John 17, he said this,
"“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:1-5, niv.)
Jesus said, "I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do."
This can only mean one thing: Jesus, fully man and fully God, came to earth and had limits. He didn't heal everyone, didn't reach everyone, didn't save everyone. The disciples weren't grown up in spiritual terms. Peter hasn't even denied knowing Jesus yet when Jesus prays the above prayer. There was still so much work to do and yet, Jesus had done all God sent him to do.
If Jesus came to earth limited, how much more are we?
I am far from his caliber, which means I am far more limited in what I've been called to do. Emotional maturity is about knowing what God has invited me to do and knowing what he hasn't invited me to do and then living within those limits. When we learn to embrace the gift of limits, we set ourselves up to experience the presence and power of the limitless God.
Think of the difference between a river and a flood. The same water that is in the river is the same water that is in the flood. The water itself hasn't changed. A river is simply water living within its limit, while a flood is a body of water that has broken through and is living beyond its limits. One of them profits our lives. Rivers provide resources, transportation and rest, while a flood rips us of our reality, brings devastation, and often leaves us with loss.
The water is the same. The outcome is devastatingly different.
I don't know about you, but I want to be a river for the Kingdom of God and not a flood. I want to provide resources and rest. I want people to come close for renewal and revival. I don't want to be destructive. Living within my limits enables me to put my best foot forward for the Kingdom. It also allows the Father time to step in and do what I can't.
So how do we do this? How do we become people who recognize and respond to our limits?
1.) We understand everyone has different limits
It's the parable of the talents. To some he gave 5, others 3 and still others 1. Each according to what they were capable of. God is a good Dad. He knows what we can do. He knows our level of maturity and the process of growth that is before us. What he has invited you to do will be different than all you want to do.
Which means, just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. Jesus walked in step with the Spirit. He only ever did what he saw the Father do, only ever said what he heard the Father say. He lived within his limits. And I think it took more reserve for him to embrace those God given limits than we talk about. He didn't heal everyone, but he could. It might have just been easier for Jesus to do what he could do than it was for him to not do what he wasn't sent to do. He could do anything and yet he didn't do everything.
2.) We accept and applaud other people's limits
I live life with very capable people. They are good at what they do and sometimes what they do makes my life and the ministries I work with a lot nicer. But, here's what I have noticed; though a few may benefit when people live outside their limits, everyone benefits when people live inside their limits.
I want to cheer for my friends who dedicate themselves to living within their limits because I believe when they are limited, God will be limitless through them.
3.) We realize limits change when seasons change
What someone can do right now might not be what they can do next year. This is also true in my life. My mom is limited with my family right now because in this season she is taking care of my grandparents. They need her. Their health has been difficult to navigate this year and mom has done an amazing job, but I have had to acknowledge her limits and applaud her change of season. It's not forever, but it's for now.
By the looks of this video, my mom is embracing these limits well and grandma is looking healthy!
4.) We teach and honor effective boundaries
Let's stop teaching people how not to ask and just start teaching people how to say no. It's a high value in my life to not use the words, "I hate to ask you this..."
If I hate to ask someone something, then I just shouldn't be asking. Likewise, if I am asking someone to do something that is outside of their limits, I want them to tell me no because I want the opportunity to honor their boundaries. It also means I get to ask someone else. Someone I might have overlooked otherwise.
5.) Finally, we be the example
What we see to be true in so many churches is this;
we are stressed out, over booked and over committed mothers and fathers,
raising stressed out, over booked and over committed sons and daughters, and
building stressed out, overbooked and over committed families and churches
Instead - how about we be this;
We are mothers and fathers with limits,
raising sons and daughters with limits, and
building families and churches with limits
But we serve a LIMITLESS God.