What If What’s Limiting You is Meant to be a Gift?  

Why do we feel that what’s limiting to us is a bad thing? Maybe it’s a way of remembering we don’t need to be all things all the time.

We all have them: life limitations. They look different for me than they do for my best friend or for my neighbor. But all of us have this commonality: there is a life we dream of (daily) and another that we live — and we wrestle with the gap between them. We all subtly ask the question that we don’t often name out loud: where is God when what I imagined for my life right now isn’t what I’m living at two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon?

It was two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon when I found myself in bed again. 

This was the fifth month in a row of surprising sickness. It felt like kindergarten all over again, or perhaps my freshman year of college – when we were all magnets for sickness, our immune systems flooded from all the new acquaintances and what they carried. 

Something wasn’t quite right.

With the changing of the seasons happening on the other side of my bedroom window and the squeals of our children making mounds out of leaves for hours (an image I wouldn’t see but for the picture Nate snapped on his phone), I couldn’t turn off the looming question: how did I land myself here again?

Then all that I was failing on the other side of the bedroom door came trickling through my mind:

… leftovers or cobbled-together remnants of the fridge, again, for dinner

… I’d forgotten to wash Bo’s soccer socks for practice

… and forgotten the paperwork Eden needed – but now I felt too sick to find and fill it out

… Nate missed his much-needed dinner out with friends (he’d planned this months ago)

… I forgot to bring my dear friend a birthday gift

… and the kitchen was surely showing the wear and tear of my absence.

The list of what I’m missing and how I’m failing – trapped inside the limitations of my body – is a well-worn pathway for my brain to travel.

While your limitations might look different than mine did at two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, I suspect you know the feeling of hitting the fence-line between you and what you imagined your life to look like right now… or even just your two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon to be.

So, what do we do with these limitations?

Psalm 16:6 says, “The [boundary]lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

I read that and I noticed the distance between what the psalmist suggests and how my heart feels about my limitations — both in the big and the small. Some days, the circumstances limiting me from attaining certain dreams for my family feel just as confusing as the sickness limiting me from cleaning my kitchen, preparing dinner, and bringing a gift to a friend.

For all of us with our variegated limitations, to find them as a beautiful inheritance requires first that we name them.

Name your limitations.

Our fence lines, seemingly keeping us from the life we want to live, have a vague but potent power over us until we name them. We can’t bring to God what we haven’t first named.

Perhaps take a minute (or five) to consider: What limitations am I facing today that are causing me to be grumpy, frustrated, and anxious? 

Give yourself time to grieve them.

I subtly coach myself not to “sweat the small stuff.” But if I’m honest, the small stuff is making me sweat. Psalm 139:3 tells us that God is “acquainted with all [our] ways.” He knows even the bruise you feel from your shins hitting the fence line … before you name it. Grief allows us to bring our aches into His lap, to see His kind and gentle face toward us as we hurt.

Our limitations will continue to allure us to work tirelessly to overcome them (with much of our lives) until we give ourselves time to grieve them with Him. This might be the most important thing you do today, even if it’s just five minutes of letting yourself lean into God’s chest as you name the pain of your limitations and begin to grieve them.

And then … 

Imagine that God might gift you fresh perspective and endurance as you grieve. 

Friends, He has a story for us that is beyond the binary “I didn’t get what I wanted” or “I need to stop being so upset by not getting what I wanted.”

He wants to meet you in the liminal margin between feeling the ache of your limits and chiding yourself into “just get over it already.”

He has help for you that is greater than “girl, just get over it already.”

“Search me … and know my anxieties,” says the psalmist in Psalm 139:23.

It’s here in this searching and being known that our limitations may eventually become … our greatest gift.

I realize I didn’t share the end of the story of that sick day (which became one of many), but I write here as one who lived that day as part of a larger story in which God showed Himself as one who allowed my weakness so that I might find Him differently than when I was strong.

There are gifts in our limitations.

The Gift of Limitations

Are you feeling stretched to your limits and wish those limits weren’t there at all? Bestselling author Sara Hagerty asks: “What if your greatest weaknesses–the areas of your life you resent the most, the places where you feel the most overextended and unfulfilled–are your doorway to rich intimacy with God? What if your limitations were, in fact, your greatest gift?”

“This will be a balm to Christians who feel overextended.” -Publisher’s Weekly

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