The Limits You Hate May Be Good For You

7 min. to read.

I love this season of the year here in Portland. Blue sky sunshine days begin to break through the winter veil of wet greyness we’ve lived beneath for months on end. When those days happen… man, they are glorious!

With those days of sun and the change in temperature, all the living things in our yard have decided it must be spring. Flowering trees have bloomed. Grass is growing. Animals are out and about. All the signs are there.

What’s happening outside mirrors what’s been going on inside of me. My season is changing. I’m in the last couple of weeks with one side-job that I’ve had for three years. The job has outgrown the time I have to give it, and I am ready to hand it off to someone else. As that transition nears, I can feel the newness bubbling up inside of me. Have you ever felt that? It’s good, right?

But seeing the signs of spring means that you’ve just been in winter. That’s been true in my front yard. It’s been true for my heart as well.

Almost three months ago I did something I’ve never done before. I made a difficult and terrifying choice to stop doing some things I love.

I knew this past quarter was going to be brutal. We had big changes at Bridge City that were going to require a lot of attention. The month of February and March for my side-job was going to be slammed. Plus, I was training my replacement. I knew that I would not be able to do all those things—and continue to write and support my book.

It was terrifying. I’d already stopped blogging to give my attention to supporting The Wisdom of Your Heart, my new book. Statistically, most books are done selling by six months, so this was a crucial time to keep pushing hard to get it out there to folks it might help. I was afraid that if I stopped doing the work I loved, I might not come back to it, that circumstances would conspire against me, and I’d end up looking up from my to-do list a year or two from now, and notice I hadn’t written anything new for months. Irrational, I know.

So, even though I was afraid, I set down all my writing and writing-related work for a season. I did it because I am painfully aware of my limits.

When Limits are Good.

One of the lessons I’ve been learning as I get older is that limits are a gift of grace. I used to hate them. I used to live at a hundred miles an hour, saying YES! to all the things. Well, I’ve started to learn that limits aren’t bad at all. In fact, they are a part of God’s design.

In the Genesis story of creation, we see God creating all the stuff—that’s the part we’re used to focusing on—but God also creates limits.

“Water, you’re going to be over here. Land, you’re going to be over there. The sun will shine in the day. The moon at night.” Those are limits. One of the things creation poem tells us is that a healthy, well-functioning world exists when each part is living within its good limits. You and I are the same way. A good life, a life that reflects how God made us, a life of real freedom and wholeness will be lived with limits.

Think About Your Limits.

Consider some of the ways you and I are limited.

We have limited time.

I know it sounds obvious, but this came as quite a shock to me. Most of my life, I’ve lived like I had unlimited time. But that’s a lie. I only get so many more days to spend with the people I love, to do work that matters, to use my gifts, to enjoy God’s good earth.

How many of those days am I going to waste doing things I don’t really care about? How many of those days am I willing to lose to busy work, and fear, and distraction?

We also all have limited physical energy and ability.

This is not some weakness that makes you unworthy. Our culture tells us to do more and more, piling on the 5-Hour Energy, and gallons of legal stimulants and sugar. We keep hearing that our worth is based on our performance and accomplishment. We’ve begun to believe that things like taking a Sabbath, or taking a nap, or taking a vacation are somehow a debit against our value in the world.

All of that is a destructive lie. You have limited physical energy. Your body is a gift. Burning it out honors no one.

We are limited in our emotional energy.

This is closely tied to our physical energy. Relationships take emotional energy. Creativity takes emotional energy. Problem-solving takes emotional energy. Parenting takes emotional energy. Grieving takes emotional energy.

If you don’t make it a priority to refresh your heart, you’ll live in an emotionally tapped-out state. You’ll be less careful with the people around you. You’ll have less will-power to make good choices. You will do damage to your heart and mind and the people around you.

Limited by season & calling.

You also have limits that have to do with the season of life you’re in, and who God is calling you to be. If you’re a parent of small children, that’s the season you’re in. It requires your focus and attention. But it doesn’t last forever. Maybe you’re taking care of an ailing parent. Maybe you’re an accountant, and it’s tax time. Maybe you’re looking for work.

You are in a season. It won’t last forever. But it requires your attention, focus, and hard work. So give yourself to it, but be very clear about how much you have to give.

Our culture tells us that we can have it all and do it all. It’s not true. We don’t have all the time in the world. We don’t have unlimited energy. We don’t have the time to master every skill we find interesting. Our lives are defined by limits, and when we try to live beyond them, it will always end up hurting us and the people we love.

Limits Remind Us: We Are Enough

When we choose to live within our limits, we are accepting an incredible gift of grace. We don’t have to do ALL the things, and we are still loved. We don’t have to say YES! to every invitation and obligation. We are still valuable. It’s hard to believe for a performer like me, but it’s true. Maybe it’s something you need to hear, too.

The last three months for me have been an exercise in living with my limits. I set down things I care about for a season because I knew I couldn’t do all the things—not and still be the kind of person I want to be.

It was hard, but that choice created space for me to do what I needed to do, and still have some semblance of a life with my family, and not lose myself. Now, the season is changing. With my transition out of this side-job, I’m setting down one obligation, one set of commitments, and that’s creating space for other things. I’m excited about it. I’ve got some really cool things to share with you!

What about you? I want to invite you to evaluate your own life and limits. Are you living within the good limits God’s given you? Are you conscious of the limits of time, and your body, and your emotions, and your season of life? Are you on a treadmill, where you worry that your stock-value as a human will go down if you stop moving?

If you’re there, I want you to know there is freedom and peace to be had. It’s surprising to say, but it comes from accepting the good limits God has given you.

You are enough.
You are worthy.
You are loved.
You can rest.

6 thoughts on “The Limits You Hate May Be Good For You

  1. Good stuff here, Marc! I’ve had a very hard time accepting my limits, and they are getting tougher to overstep as I get older.

    1. Me too! I’ve paid a pretty heavy cost for living beyond my limits as well. I’m still pushing myself into new things (like a book!) but I’m trying to accept a more gentle pace.

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