What If Our Limitations Were a Gift?

Our limitations don’t need to be a negative in our days, but maybe a chance to lean into God a bit more.

Raising teenagers is changing me.

God is parenting me as I watch Him parent them.

When they were five, we walked through the woods as they fired dozens of questions: how many days until summer? Do Turkey’s have mommies and daddies? Will the creek ever rise to our house? How do you know if a tree is still alive or dead in winter? Nate and I were their compass, and we directed their days. Our input shaped how they saw the world and how the world impacted them.

When they’re fifteen, I’m learning they need fewer words and more presence. Less “this is what to do” and more soft phrases of confidence in those minute interactions in the kitchen and soft landing places to fall when they stumble.

Teenagers have big feelings but their daily word count (among other things) lessens — fewer questions of the world and of mom and dad (and more questions of themselves), less ability to narrate what they experience in a day, fewer tears on the pillow, and more bottled on the inside.

Nate and I are getting parented, ourselves, through our mistakes with them and the gentle Holy Spirit, nudging us along. Parenting is a long, slow love, I’m learning. The rewards aren’t quick and flashy in the later years. Our teenagers grow in inches — centimeters, even — not yards. And the real encounters with God happen in the process, not in merely seeing who they become one nebulous day when they are “adults.”

In moments of clarity, I can see: it’s not all that different with me.

I stumble, and I grow inches and centimeters, and I learn over decades.

And He made me this way — limited — so that He could make Himself majestic in me.

God boundaried me with skin and human soul. He limited me.

But 21st-century inertia combined with my desire for “an extraordinary life” entices me to resent these God-given limitations that cause slow growth.

In one afternoon, I can see and “engage” in the lives of a dozen (or more) friends in different states — through four different media. Five hours and 21 touch points later, and I feel full, connected — strong. If I’ve also managed to cook a meal, change the laundry, play a game with a seven-year-old and wrap a birthday present to drop by a friend’s house, I feel empowered, vibrant.

This momentum of strength can happen over days or even weeks — life-multitasking, life-mastering. A broom in one hand, my phone in the other, my groceries promptly delivered to my door.

Until … real life intersects my well-managed, seemingly connected, technology-mediated life and a child gets sick, or the car needs an unexpected trip to the shop or the washing machine breaks … and I face my natural limits. Boundaries. A migraine sidelines me from being connected, available, on top of my meal prep and friendships.

And then I resent the limits I forgot I had. (The limits I forgot He gave me.)

So I’m tempted to surpass them — to beat them. Tempted to stay up later, to juggle more tasks at once, to push a child on the swing while responding to emails in between. To say “God is in control” to my children and spend my hours as if it’s all up to me.

We fantasize about our days of strength — working unknowingly to get back to them as if those are the real glory days. Except that, according to God, glory resides somewhere else.

We can’t achieve the extraordinary we crave through mere human strength.

So, back to my teenagers.

These are purportedly the tumultuous years. This is combined with a world that tells them to be strong — app-filtered and beautiful at all times, to show their best side, to press past their limits (in technology and life), and to have it all. An unstable brew that carries with it potential for disaster in every home.

But I keep watching His way with them as they brush up against their limits, and … oh … His way is so different, so other.

His way is gentle.

It shines a path that embraces their limits and weakness, and “I just can’t do it all,” “I just can’t be it all.” He comes near to them when they hit their limits.

And it reminds me: God confined us to skin, friends.

He isn’t irritated and annoyed by the things that limit us. He isn’t overwhelmed by the sickness that surprised your plans or the toppling laundry because the machine broke. He isn’t wishing your kitchen were cleaner or your cooking more ordered. He is the hand on our back, the whisper behind us saying, “your strength doesn’t delight me … your competence doesn’t wow me.”

The best stories in my life have come through great weakness. It’s where God lives. He is both more fatherly and more powerful in my weakness than any other time.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The limits you felt last night when you went to sleep (and were reminded of five minutes before you opened this post) could be the most potent signs of where God wants to meet you. Perhaps, there is a new way. 

Instead of resenting these limits and working fiercely to avoid them, maybe … ask Him to meet you right there in the middle of them.

The majestic, the extraordinary we crave, the tender-near presence of God — all of it may be missing from our days because we’re looking to purchase, arrange, and fabricate for ourselves what only God creates … through our limitations.

This morning, on the tail end of my planned 45-minute run — that turned into a twelve-minute run in between nursing two sick kids — I prayed this prayer below. Perhaps it’s one for you, too.

God, will you parent me? I want to find You in my limitations. I want to meet You in this weakness.

We adults need parenting too.

{Each month, I write several times around topics like this over here. If this is hitting a soft spot in you, perhaps check out my more private writing space.}

In Him,

Sara Hagerty

Every heart longs to be seen and understood. Yet most of our lives is unwitnessed. We spend our days working, driving, parenting. We sometimes spend whole seasons feeling unnoticed and unappreciated. In Unseen, Sara Hagerty suggests that this is exactly what God intended. He is the only One who truly knows us. He is the only One who understands the value of the unseen in our lives. When this truth seeps into our souls, we realize that only when we hide ourselves in God can we give ourselves to others in true freedom–and know the joy of a deeper relationship with the God who sees us. Sara Hagerty unfolds the truths found in the biblical story of Mary of Bethany to discover the scandalous love of God and explore the spiritual richness of being hidden in him.

Find Every Bitter Thing is Sweet on Amazon →

100 Words of Affirmation Your Son/Daughter Needs to Hear

Matt and Lisa Jacobson want you to discover the powerful ways you can build your children up in love with the beautiful words you choose to say every day–words that every son and daughter needs to hear.

These affirmation books offer you one hundred phrases to say to your son or daughter – along with short, personal stories and examples – that deeply encourage, affirm, and inspire.

So start speaking a kind and beautiful word into their lives daily and watch your children–and your relationship with them–transform before your eyes.

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