Saturday, March 27, 2010

Living with Limitations in Life and in Work

"You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it"

Psalm 139:5-6

I’m a dreamer – I love thinking about what’s possible. I’m inclined to look at life through the windshield, rather than rear view mirror.

People just like me don’t take well to boundaries or limitations, either in life or in work but the reality is that they do exist for each of us. Some limitations are circumstantial or temporary. Other limitations may be physical and more permanent in nature. Some have to do with relationships, either at home or at work. Others pertain to our own makeup – our limitation in talent or ability.

It's interesting that Psalm 139 indicates to us that God may be behind these limitations – it is God who hems us “in behind and before”. It is God who lays His hand on us.

I’m also provoked by David's response – “Such knowledge is too wonderful to me. It is high, I cannot attain it”. He sees God’s limiting hand but he doesn’t fight it … it’s mysterious and puzzling but “wonderful” nonetheless. He is simultaneously humbled and amazed by it.

I don’t often see limitations in life that way – I sometimes struggle to see God’s hand. When I don’t understand, I’m often perplexed instead of amazed. But God is faithful and kind to help me – He’s taught me and continues to teach me – He’s gently leading me to trust Him.

I’d love to hear how you deal with the limitations in your life – at work, at home, in your community. What happens when you don’t have the ability to do what you once could? How do you respond when you realize your dreams won’t be achieved? How do you deal with the harsh reality that you're simple not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough to accomplish your goals?

How should we respond?


David@RedLetterBelievers said...

ESQ: To be honest, i used to limitations as a challenge. I would find some way, some how to climb over, around, up and beyond them. But, over time, I have settled. I have the "wisdom" of what works and what doesnt, what battles to fight and which ones to leave along, what walls are worth scaling and which ones to ignore.

I need that will again! Great post.


kingfisher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kingfisher said...

Perhaps only those who “have much” expect to have their dreams realized. People who struggle with survival are too intent on getting through the day – or they’ve lost hope that this life can ever be better. When we read the verse, “He will give you the desires of your heart,” we tend to think that means the career we want, or the friendships, or the ability to do good for others. A lot is said about following our dreams, pursuing our interests, using our talents. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this – if it works, and if it comes from the right motives. But we may ultimately find we acted in our own strength rather than in His strength, and what we thought was for his glory, was actually to satisfy our own need of success. Too often, we don’t even discover, or remember, that God may hem us in so that what we (think we) desire most, never does come to pass. Because all the while we’re focusing on “things in this life”, or “being a star in his crown”, or “shining for him”, his intent is to direct our hearts to him and to humble us enough to let him receive all the glory.

I do struggle to see God’s hand in the weaker parts of my life. I get confused that I know he’s called me to be an artist and writer, yet my health isn’t good enough to really produce much in the way of results. My heart yearns to be a good listener, to help others with encouragement, to “notice” those whom others don’t seem to care much about. But my physical and emotional limitations require mostly being a hermit in the quiet. I’ve carried a few dreams in my heart for 40 years; they’ve never gotten blotted out – I’ve resigned from them, tried to accept that such would never come to pass, whatever. But then they bounce back stronger than ever. Yet I can’t get them off the ground.


kingfisher said...

part 2 of comment

Paul earnestly expected to visit Spain. But he never got there, instead, winding up in a ratty Roman prison. All the apostles and most early Christians suffered persecution and cruel death. There’ve been plenty of martyrs, or sufferers, or tired out warriors, since then. There’ve been many who seemed to be mightily led of the Lord, who, after tasting much success, fell. Many others labor in obscurity; nobody but God knows that they have been faithful.

We are told to “occupy until he comes”, and so we do get to pursue those dreams which seem most meaningful, purposeful, and God-glorifying. But in my case, I find I so often have to give my activities to God as acts of worship, the artworks or great literary masterpieces which I conceive of in mind, but can’t get to “gel” on paper. But thinking about them can bring me joy, quite as much as the doing of them. The can be offered to Him as command performances before the King. My heart that desires to serve others (housed in a body unable to offer the particular services I think acceptable to God), may be offered as gifts to him.


kingfisher said...

Part 3 of comment.

Sorry, I realized too late that I ought to have posted in reverse order to get them to come out coherently. But if you scroll down, you'll see the other parts.

How thankful I am that he sees and honors the intent of my heart rather than the actual works I would have done if I could. He knows my future. I certainly don't. Sometimes when I’m sick and weary, I fear I really have no future. But as often as I’m well enough to do so, at least I can say the words “I choose life” (though I don’t “feel” it), choose to be joyful (not the same as “feeling joyful”).

George Herbert (poet) wrote of mundane tasks done for Christ as making the drudgery divine. “He who sweeps a room as for my laws, makes that and an action fine.” The Lord is directing my paths (into places I would never have thought to go or wanted to go.) When I’m able to remember this, I can try, though sometimes through gritted teeth, to declare that just as I am, I’m “accepted in the Beloved.” And when I’m too weak to even think of that, “The Lord has promised good to me.” Sometimes I can only cry out desperately, “Help me!” In my better times, I can try to accept that he knows his dreams for my life. And has promised to bring me to himself, and never forsake me or let go of my hand. This is the true dream of success, that “we carry our treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the Lord may shine through.“

kingfisher said...

oops, they were in the proper order after all.

Ted M. Gossard said...

A tough but good question, ESI. Surely a growing point for us. One has to accept their lot to be sure. And live well in it. Kind of like being comfortable in one's own skin, or playing within one's game. Or better put since from Scripture, according to the measure of God's grace given us.

I am overwhelmed at times, and I've been hit with it really hard lately. Some things way beyond me and too much at the same time. I guess it's a season of hard knocks and hard hits, so hopefully I'll grow through it. And be a better person because of it, by God's grace.

Craver Vii said...

Provocative question. One of my limitations is that I am no where near as smart as I'd like to be. Besides that, I seem to forget a lot of stuff. It's embarrassing and scary.

And yet, when framed in proper theology and illuminated by passages like the one you just quoted, it can result in doxology. God is good!

As Ted said, it's a growing point.

Every Square Inch said...

David - it sounds like you're like me...not particularly welcoming of limitations placed in my life... but sounds like you've grown and learned wisdom along the way.

kingfisher - thanks for taking the time to share your personal story. All of us are limited - even the most talented of individuals - and we all have to grapple with the limits of our abilities. I love that you're thinking about this with a God centered view, setting your hope on eternity.

Ted - sounds like you're experiencing a tough time and wrestling with God's hemming... I know that He will help you in your journey

Craver - very humble of you to share your limitations and your joy in God's hand on your life is evident in your words

Halfmom said...

Wow, ESI. Great post and good comments too! I read this when you first posted it but thought, "I don't know. Not too well, I think." That's how I deal with limitations.

Besides the fact they hurt (physical) they most confuse me - how do I achieve what I think He wants me to with the physical limitations I have. Then I wonder why He has put so much on my heart that I cannot do (mentally - I'm just not a world class scientist).

I don't have any more answers to the questions than I did last weekend when you posted, but after reading the comments, I feel less compelled to have answers and to just let Him be Him and trust Him.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Easter weekend. He is risen!

Every Square Inch said...

Susan/Halfmom - I think it's just fine not to have answers - trusting Him is at the heart of dealing with our limitations. Not our will but His will be done in the details of our lives.

Heidi Mann said...

A fabulous post and follow-up discussion! I was born with visual limitations and now work as a copyeditor! When I was first getting into this line of work, someone who knew of my visual impairment asked, "How will THAT work?" Turns out there is technology to compensate in my case, and if I read a bit more slowly than others, I also am more attentive to detail. I also found, in my prior profession as a pastor, that using volunteer drivers from the congregation to assist me in doing home visitation and such was a great way to SHARE ministry; I sometimes had the chance to minister to my drivers while they were doing their driving ministry to serve both me and the persons we visited. In the end, GOD got/gets the glory because I all that I do is only doable through God's grace and guidance. (I think of the story of Gideon in the Old Testament...)

Megan said...

Finding out I'm "insufficient" in an area has come to mean a few different things to me.

1) I need to grow: I'm looking at an area of my life God wants me to develop and he'll show me how.

2) I'm off track: my inadequacy is an indication that the goal I'd set isn't in line with his plans for my life.

3) I need to rely on faith: this is an area I will never improve in, but that I don't need to. He has given me all I need to be successful.

Every Square Inch said...

Heidi - your story reminds me 2 Corinthians 12:9 which speaks of God's power made perfect in weakness. Many of us struggle to come to terms with our limitations but your example shows us how our weaknesses can magnify God's power.

Megan -I like your 3 points - especially in the way each of them makes room for God's leading, guidance and intervention.