This is the time of year to be thinking – and writing – about gratitude. But instead, I find myself thinking about limits.
Every day, we run into them: limits of our physical body, our emotional reserves, and our time; limits on our perspective on the world based on the life we’ve lived; limits based on where we have been born in place and history. Limits imposed on us outwardly, or limits we keep trying to outrun that come from within. Whether we must accept limits that feel isolating and debilitating, or we simply get overwhelmed by the demands of a full life, all of us feel constrained by the limits of time, personality, or place. We long at once to be everywhere and here, experienced in all things yet an expert in a few, having more and having less.
Not until we realize that this hunger in us is a seed of eternity will we plant it deep into the soil of our finite limits, and let it grow.
And if we let it grow, what will the fruit of our hungering be? I believe we fight our limits the hardest when we tilt towards believing that everything depends on us. I could tell you ten different ways I could fill 40 hours a week, and each one of them I would enjoy. The question is, what have my particular limits – my own life circumstances, personality, and opportunities, best equipped me for doing with those hours? And when do those limits hint that it’s actually someone else’s opportunity to fill? How do these limits teach me contentment, teach me how to say, “enough”?
The more I recognize and honor my own limits, the more grateful I am to be part of the body of Christ – “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Or, as one weekly prayer at our church says, “that we are living members of the body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom.” I am so thankful to remember that the work of the kingdom continues on even when I cannot do it all. I am so grateful to know that in my times of weakness, the strength of others carries me along.
I imagine that I will always have seasons when I strain against my limits. I enjoy too many pieces of this beautiful life we’ve been given to have it any other way. But this year, I am learning again what it means to live life open-handed, and receive my current limitations as gift.
“Something is wrong, I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream.” – Mary Oliver
As we head into the holiday season, I hope you feel the freedom to live a beautiful, full, and creative life amidst the limits you have been given. May you learn what it means to flourish in your particular type of life, and welcome others into the possibility of flourishing in theirs. Together, may we live a life of open-handedness and connection, a life that breathes a quiet smile of contentment, and says, “enough.”