Embrace the Limitations
September 24, 2020 | Didi Bacon
Something has been sticking with me for a while now.
It's one of those things that comes up in several aspects of my life.
Allow me to list them:
Not too long ago, I watched a TED talk entitled "Embrace the shake." It was about an artist who damaged his writing hand. When he went to draw, it would shake. He could not draw a straight line. At first, he was devastated. Then a friend encouraged him to "embrace the shake" and use those squiggles to produce unique art. Heeding his friend's advice, his limitations became the launchpad for his success.
During the early days of the pandemic, I did a lot of reading. One of the books I read was Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath. Gladwell makes a compelling argument, from many real-life stories of people with deficiencies like dyslexia, that they did not succeed DESPITE their disability; they succeeded BECAUSE of their disability or lack of skill.
Another book I worked through was Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life. In Peterson's twelfth rule, "pet a cat when you encounter one on the street," he addresses the issue of suffering. Through his story with his daughter, he shares how our suffering results from our being limited beings (we get sick, we make mistakes, we are not all gifted the same way, we die), but it is our vulnerability that gives us meaning. Our limitations can be sources of our greatest blessings.
So, what's the biblical perspective on our limitations?
God created human beings - Adam and Eve - and placed them in a perfect world. But the world was not without limits. He put them in a garden that had distinct boundaries. They could eat any of the many fruits of the garden EXCEPT one! That's the limitation! God created us with limitations right from the beginning.
Think about the biblical teaching on marriage. God creates Adam. He gives Adam a life purpose; he gives Adam meaningful work. BUT then God says, it is not good for Adam to be alone in this work. The idea is that Adam was lacking. There was a limitation to Adam's ability to pursue God's work. So God created Eve, a woman. The gift of marriage is given because of a limitation. Adam could not fulfill God's calling without Eve. Eve could not fulfill God's calling without Adam.
A constant theme that runs throughout Scripture is that God uses the unlikely to do His work. Read the Old Testament, and you will find that God calls the childless Abraham and Sarah to be the parents of His people. He commissions Moses, who has a speech impediment of some type, to be His spokesman. The law God gives to Moses to give to the people of Israel is a list of limitations - "Thou shall not…" God directs his prophet Samuel to select the last son of Jesse, the shepherd boy David, to be His King.
Move into the New Testament, and you read that God sends his Son, Jesus, to be the son of a tradesman, named Joseph, and his young wife, Mary, from a town in the boonies of Galilee! The twelve apostles would not be anyone's first choice as candidates to establish the church. Every "hero" of the Bible had glaring limitations - yet that is why God chose them. Limitations are the prerequisites to blessing.
What's true in Scripture is also true for those of us who follow Jesus, who live by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to the church members because those members do not have what it takes to fulfill their ministry calling. As I read through the teachings for the New Testament church, this concept of embracing your limitation as the way to receive the eternal is everywhere. Confessing your sin is how we receive forgiveness. If you don't ask in prayer, you will not receive. God gives different gifts for ministry to various church members so that we might be the church as God intended. Dying, both literally and figuratively, is how we receive resurrection and new life.
Yet none of us like to embrace our limitations. We don't want to be told, "no, you cannot do that." So now it is considered aberrant to point out the truth that men and women are different. People become upset when it is said that God has roles for husbands and for wives in marriages and for men and women in our churches. It is considered barbaric for children to be disciplined. Everyone forgets our founding fathers' genius, understanding that the government must have checks and balances (limitations).
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. We continue to be suckered by the lie of the serpent - "Eat the fruit, God's limit is your slavery, not your salvation."
James gets right to the heart of this when he says,
"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." James 4:1-10 (NASB)
Embrace your limitations; by them, you receive the life God gives.