Your Limits Are an Invitation

0 comments Posted on November 1, 2021

by Ashley Hales

Each morning, we walk two of our children to the local elementary school. It’s one mile each way. Often, they’ll ask me or my husband to carry a backpack, and sometimes before we set off, they ask if we can just drive. “It’s easier,” they say.

“It is easier,” I reply, “but if something’s easy or not isn’t how we make our decisions,” I respond. So we grab a backpack strap, a sip of water, and carry on. It’s not that we think we always have to do the hard thing; hustle and hurry aren’t the way forward either.

Walking to school each day allows us to slow down, to move our bodies at a more human pace, to exercise and get sunshine on our faces. We have time for conversations, and we can work out our stresses and anxieties around the day.

Walking is just one way to slow down, and it teaches us a deeper truth: we have limits. And contrary to messages that say we’d best hustle and hurry to get to the good life, our good, God-given limits aren’t strictures and straight-jackets holding us back.

Limits are built into the fabric of creation. Before God created the world, it was formless, void. But, in love, God set limits: planets had orbits, vegetation had a cycle between fallow and harvest, and human creatures, too, had limits. Adam and Eve were limited in place to one spot of earth; they were limited in their relationship: they were to live within the constraints of a marriage covenant; they were to sleep, rest, delight in God, and tend the garden. They were not to spread themselves so thin that work was all they did.

So, when Eve and Adam, took and ate the fruit, they went past a good, God-given limit. Ever since, we’ve tried to bypass our limits. We schedule too much on our calendar. We spend hours in the car trying to get from one important thing to another. We eat meals standing up and check email and social media incessantly. We’ve chosen to try to hustle and hurry for our worth. No wonder we’re exhausted. If nothing else, 2020 has shown us what we’ve always known to be true but keep pushing off: we are limited.

What do you do with your limits? When you find yourself burnt out with hurry and hustle, do you blame others or your circumstances? Or do you ignore them, try to control them or fall into shame?

But there is a better way.

Our limits are invitations. We are invited to slow down and name our limits. We only have 24 hours in the day. We have a huge to-do list. We feel powerless to change the political landscape or the vitriol we see played out in our media feeds. We have budgets and limits on our bodies, time, and attention. Often we see these limits as tasks to overcome, or a defect to work on in a better version of ourselves we imagine. But what if we flipped the script? What if each of our limits are invitations to knowing God? We get to bring them to our unlimited God.

God, the unlimited one, created us as limited creatures. So each of our God-given limits are invitations to know and experience His goodness and care. We can press into our limits, trusting we have a loving parent who will walk with us. Adam and Eve were graced with God’s presence in the cool of the evening, as they walked in the Garden of Eden together.

So let’s start there. Maybe choosing to walk might be one small step to start noticing your limits and even begin embracing them. Walking helps us keep a human pace. When we walk, we have time to notice the color of leaves, the neighbor who is out, even the dried-up worm in the middle of the sidewalk: in short, the beauty and brokenness of the world.

You won’t find contentment in a life of doing and achieving more. Whenever you get to the elusive “there,” you’ll find that the “there” has moved. It’s further back or higher up the ladder of success. Let’s take a step down from that ladder and reacquaint ourselves with an ancient and comforting truth: You are limited. And that is good news, because you have an unlimited God who walks with you in the cool of the evening.

So lace up your shoes, slow down, and take a walk.

Ashley Hales is author of the recently released A Spacious Life: Trading Hustle and Hurry for the Goodness of Limits. You can take your free hustle habit quiz and get prayer “pocket practices” to help you experience spaciousness in your life at her website. Ashley hosts the Finding Holy Podcast, is mother to 4 children, wife to a pastor, and holds a PhD in English.

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