Sunday, October 17, 2010

Embracing Our Limits

By Adele Calhoun

Do you ever feel bombarded by a noisy, harried, do-more-get more-have-more sort of life? Life is good; but the balls you are juggling get going so fast that you can’t focus even when the moment overflows with delight? I want to be present to my life. I don’t want to be so distracted that the goodness of morning coffee and the springy glory of a toddler’s curls never show up on my radar screen. But the truth is I can be so restless and busy that I fail to notice all the things I am failing to notice.

What we notice or fail to notice shapes our lives. If I fail to notice how scattered, un-centered and out of touch I am with friends or family or my own soul, I have missed both my life and my limits. Life and limits may seem like contradictory things. After all we like to push the limits because we think we get more living in that way. But the fact of the matter is that honoring limits, rather than denying them, is one way we remind ourselves that we aren’t God.

Human beings are finite. Every one of us lives with limits. And it is the ones who recognize and embrace their limits that become free. Limits convey the truth of God and the reality of me:
· Every “yes” is a “no” to something. So I don’t say “yes” to everything. I weigh which “yes” will be the most life-giving.
· I can’t do everything. I need other people to help me. But they can’t help me if I don’t know what I need and ask them for it.
· Life is not meant to be lived at break-neck speed. That’s why it comes with day and night. The rhythm of rest is built into everything. Without rest I will become depleted and less aware of the very things that bring me joy.

Limits reveal my need and heighten my awareness of God. When I live with limits I am more likely to recognize peaks of joy as well as valleys of sadness. When I am able to recognize the peaks and valleys, I realize that the abundant life isn’t about success or comfort or control. It’s about living with the awareness that in limits God invites us to be free. And when we embrace this freedom, we can savor the moments that come laden with the presence and love of God. Because, after all, God’s love is the only thing in this world that doesn’t depend on our schedule or circumstances. It is limitless.

Adele Calhoun is the author of "The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us" and the forthcoming title "Invitations from God" (InterVarsity Press, July 2011). She co-pastors Redeemer Community Church in Needham, Massachusetts, with her husband Doug.


  1. I appreciate everything that you said in this post and felt it was very well articulated.

    However, I find it odd that the person who said "honoring limits, rather than denying them, is one way we remind ourselves that we aren't God" is a co-pastor with her husband.

  2. As a school leader, I can identify with embracing limits. 'No' can be as effective as 'yes' with much consideration on the things that would really matter. Thank you for sharing and blessing with us here in the Philippines. Mabuhay! - Great B. Mabuti, Fortridge Asian School

  3. Love this. Thanks for the reminder. Been pushing my limits a bit too much lately.

  4. Oh Adele! I could hear your voice as I read was wonderful and well if only I would slow down!

    Missing you at Christ Church! Janice

  5. I needed this message. Thanks!