The Gift of Limits


I am invincible!

– Boris Grishenko, Goldeneye, 1995

Today’s accomplishments were yesterday’s impossibilities

– Robert H. Schuller

One of the lessons I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals

– Michell Obama

I have had enough, Lord… Take my life

– Elijah

We live today in a culture in the West that is almost flabbergasting in it’s ability to believe multiple impossible things before breakfast, to search for the hero inside ourselves, and find and use the keys to ‘the good life’. It’s amazing! And with gurus like the above, why would we need to think anything else?

My nieces have, as a regift from a conference their father went to, a hilarious button, that when pressed gives an inspirational quote. They are all somewhat amusing, particularly when, whilst driving along, it fell off the dashboard and proclaimed firmly “I am invincible”.

Yesterday evening my wife and I were privileged to join in the evening service at a church in the Northern end of Sydney, Australia. They were working through a series on identity in Christ, and one of the passages the preacher drew on was Romans 12:1-2; “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” One of the key takeaways, that we see in the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-5, from whence the above quote is drawn, is that we need to know and understand the times we live in, and take steps to ensure that we are living in a way that tells the truth.

You could be forgiven for thinking we live in the most successful, healthy, and happy epoch of human history. But I don’t think we do. I think we live in one of the most confused. The epidemic of mental health issues, from which I suffer, is perhaps one of the most poignant examples of this.

Another, in a world focused on individual success, is burnout.

Whether you like the word burnout or not, I wonder what you make of this quote from Parker Palmer’

When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless – a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for.
One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of  trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess – the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have; it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.

We are not invincible.

Some things are impossible for humans.

Staying true to ourself is only safe if we are perfect, and we are not.

Sometimes, we do have enough, and we do just want to lay down under a tree and die.

And this is where the biblical idea of the gift of limits is so helpful.

My quiet time this morning had this question, which I think is a great question:

What would it look like for you to respect yourself in light of your God-given human limits?

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