We all have them. Most of us – at least sometimes – hate them. Try to hide them. Ignore them and hope they’ll go away. Or dig under them like a little dog frantically trying to escape from the fence keeping him in the yard.
For some of us, the most obvious limitations are physical, for others, mental, emotional, situational. Introverts and extroverts are limited in different ways. Young children, a tremendous blessing, still restrict their parents by constant needs and demands. Work to which we are called can feel unbearably heavy.
But I’m learning this. God’s view of my limits and my view are worlds apart. Too often, I see them as a barrier keeping me from the best. . . all those other things I’d love to be doing. God knows they keep me in the best. These fences surround the garden in which I’m invited to walk with Jesus. When I submit to their invitation rather than trying to climb over or dig under or break through, they keep me from wandering here and there, spreading myself thin and staying shallow and missing the relationship for which I was created. The fences are lovingly erected by the hand of Grace, signposts to lead me to Him.
Why do we see limits as bad, something to be fought rather than submitted to? Why do we think that if we’re not sufficiently free and healthy to do whatever we want, we are defective? That limits are synonymous with inadequacy? Why?
Could it be that we’re trying to be God?
The many trees of the garden in which we’re placed are not enough. We want to extend the fences and eat from the single one that is off limits. We’re not content with our prosperous life. We want to build the tower to heaven and secure our fortunes and break free of the possibility of loss and limits and dependence.
But limits are an essential part of being human. They’re one of the (few) things that set us apart from God. He has given us everything else. He grants us to share even his nature . . . within the limits of a human body. As he lives in us, we can love (even sometimes with agape) . . . but we can’t love the whole world. We can see and understand. . . but not everything. We can created beautifully and truly. . . but not from nothing. We have power. . . but not unlimited. Limits are one of the (few) things that set us apart from God, and yet most effectively keep us in God.
Limits are always given in love to lead us into the very place in which we are most full and free of limits: the heart of God.
Limits are always given in love, and when the fences grow tighter for a season (even the short season of a lifetime on earth), it is not punishment. It is a gift of guidance and direction toward buried treasure. “Here. Walk here. Dig here. Go deep here. Here you will find the spot in the heart of God for which you were created.”
It’s one of those paradoxes. When I try to ignore my limitations and press on as though they weren’t there, they become my focus and feel, well, limiting. Harsh and ugly. When I recognize them as gift, loving invitation from a Heart who longs for my presence, and choose to walk arm in arm with my Lover in the center of the garden, the fences fade behind beauty.