Becoming a mom was, and continues to be, the most challenging thing I have ever faced. Greater than the hours of musical discipline, greater than being plunged into another language and culture, greater than months of severe illness. Rather than in one or two areas, as the aforementioned challenges were, being mom challenges me in every way. It has brought me to the end of my limits over and over.
First the physical limits of carrying, birthing and caring for fragile life. But intertwined with these physical challenges are the faith challenges, the emotional challenges, the mental challenges. Every challenge highlights another limit of mine.
My over-confident, zealous, I’m-going-to-change-the-world!, twenty year old self has died on the rocks of motherhood. Yes, these limits of mine are not going away.
How did Mary manage to acquiesce to the Lord so quickly? We know so little of her background. We can assume that she lived under the cultural constraints of her time. She appears in the New Testament as a woman who was like all other women, living within her culture comfortably. There certainly seems to be no attitude of pride or ambition in her humble welcoming of the angel Gabriel’s message. Unlike Gideon, she asked not for fleeces. Unlike Moses, she did not cry a cowardly “I am inadequate!”. Unlike Zechariah, priest of God that he was, she did not question the Lord. Despite her limits of upbringing, personality, youth and unmarried status, she did not quiz the Lord on how this could be. God said it would be, and she said yes. She was able to agree with the Lord quickly because she accepted her limits and she accepted, carte blanche, the limitlessness of God. And so, the Giver of Life grew inside of her life.
Baby Jesus, limitless God, curled himself up into a fetal ball inside of Mary and grew within her limited body. He extended her, the natural growing to expand around the supernatural life inside. God deemed to take on our limitations.
How to live the call to house a limitless God in my limited life? In what ways does his grace and presence grow in my life and extend me to what I thought was not possible? And if God can accept to grow, even desire to grow, in the limited confines of the created human life, then how am I to view my limits?
We must allow God to initiate and command the extension of boundaries, not our selfish ambitions or grand dreams. We live in a culture that demands we break through our boundaries, that we not give in to the limits we have, that we must overcome everything. We war against ourselves when we ignore our God-given boundaries.
Largely because of our culture, I usually see the limitation of my energy, with which I wrestle every day, as a hindrance and a curse. But what if it is meant to embody the life of God? God does not condemn my lack of energy, rather he comes to me in compassion offering rest and care, and is willing to work within these confines under which I am born.
I fall prey to the lies that I am not enough, what I do is not enough, a never-ending drive to impress and please. God does not look at our limitations and say: “overcome it, do more!”, like a hounding coach. Rather he surrounds us with the encouragement of his word, his witnesses and his presence and urges us to stay close as we press on within our limited ways.
How might you and I say yes, I am limited AND yes, my limits do not limit God. Has God spoken a word of expansion into your life that you doubt he is able to fulfill? Do your limits discourage you? I suggest that, rather than rail against them, accept them for they are yours, and then accept God into them.
Lord, I am deeply limited, but I am so by your command and allowance. You made me, you love me and you live in me. I praise you that you, O limitless God, actually love to live within me, in my constraints and in my body and life. How valuable you make my limited life!
I pray, Lord, that when I come up hard against my limits, I also come up hard against your love. Be present to me in them. I accept your grace into them and refuse my own condemnation of them.
And when you call me to extend myself in your name, to grow and enlarge as I make room for your kingdom, I pray for faith and courage that you will provide all I need to grow – the support, the sustenance, and the guidance. When I am afraid of this new territory and am beyond my previous limits may I turn to you and see that you do not demand proof that I can do this, but instead assure me that you are with me and glad to be doing this growing together.