My children squealed in delight on our family’s first afternoon in our upgraded, fenced-in backyard. My husband spent weeks sweating in the overgrown landscape. He dug up rocky soil, carried pallets of sod, and repaired broken fence boards to create a fun, safe play area. Previously, anytime my young children wanted to play outside, I took them to our hazardous front yard, where I followed in their shadows to keep them from harm. Now, they could enjoy the joyous freedom of the great outdoors within the protected limits of our fence.
Yet my two-year-old son soon pointed to the fence gate, wanting to revisit his old stomping grounds in the front yard. He had liberty to play within the safe boundaries of our backyard, yet he questioned whether something better awaited him on the other side of the fence. He believed I limited him. But really, I provided him more freedom to run around, kick balls, and blow bubbles because I no longer needed to hover around him.
Eventually I grew frustrated with his escape efforts (and more creative in how I secured the gate). Yet I am too often like my young son, discontent with the limitations my heavenly Father has given me.
Defying Our Limits
The world tells us we are limitless if we believe in ourselves and work hard. I often fall for this deception and push past the good limits my heavenly Father has created for my body, mind, and spirit. So I agree to another ministry commitment. Add more social events to our family calendar. Write down new ambitions in my goal planner. Squeeze in one more task on an already overloaded day. But when I ignore my boundaries, I am more irritable with my family, skip my quiet time with the Lord, and feel my body’s aching cries.
Certainly I’m not the first person to believe Satan’s lie and live beyond the boundaries endowed by my Creator. Adam and Eve were discontent with every good tree in the garden because they believed God was withholding something better (Gen. 3). An entire civilization disregarded God’s command to fill the earth and instead built a giant tower to declare their independence (Gen. 11). The Israelites in the desert resisted God’s clear parameters for their community, then complained when they suffered the consequences of their rebellion (Num. 13–14). Even the Pharisees missed the point of God’s limits and invented more rules to increase their own glory and power (Matt. 23).
In our current culture, we push our bodies physically to gain a beautiful appearance. We ignore God’s moral guidelines to appease our insatiable appetites. We work longer and harder than ever before to achieve prosperity. While we may seek fulfillment and independence, we gain shame, suffering, and ultimately separation from our Creator. By rejecting our limits, we reject God himself.
Learning from Christ’s Limitations
Despite our rebellion, the Father sent his Son to draw us back to him and display the goodness of his design for humanity. Christ Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6–7). He gave up his divine rights, accepted the limitations of a human body, and offered himself as a sacrifice on our behalf.
Jesus exemplified how to walk in humble submission to the Father’s limits. He knew the weakness of his human spirit, so he intentionally went away to pray (Luke 5:16). Because he knew the mortal body could sustain only so much, he took days off, slept, and ate (Mark 6:30–32). He accepted the restrictions on his earthly authority and resisted Satan’s temptation to serve his own selfish desires and glory (Matt. 4:1–11).
We’re invited to learn this humble mindset from Jesus. He calls us to lay down the heavy burden we carry to do it all. In its place, he offers the easy yoke of submission to the Father’s good gift of limits (Matt. 11:28–29). As children of God, we can either continue pridefully striving like this world, or we can rest in the humble obedience of Christ.
Enjoying the Beauty of Limits
I can choose to be like my toddler son by constantly trying to escape the limits God has placed on my life—limits on my time, energy, calling, and more. I can add more tasks to my to-do list and ignore the needs of my body and spirit until I’m left frustrated, anxious, and exhausted.
Alternatively, I can take on the humility of Christ, accepting the good portion God has given to me in this life. I can sing with the psalmist, “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (Ps. 16:5–6).
God has given me specific life circumstances, callings, and capacities. When I joyfully accept the beautiful inheritance God has given me, I can decline the ministry opportunity outside of my giftings. I can release the world’s unrealistic expectations for me to be a “superwoman” doing it all. And I can be content with the weakness of my body, the imperfections of my home, and the ordinariness of my calling.
I can hold on to my life loosely, trusting my good and gracious God to “hold my lot.” Only then will I be able to work and play in freedom, believing the boundary lines have truly fallen for me in pleasant places.
Meet the Author
Bethany Broderick lives with her husband and three children in Birmingham, Alabama. A recovering perfectionist, she writes about resting in God’s grace in the everyday moments of life as a woman, wife, and mother. She is a regular contributor for Momma Theologians and The Joyful Life and has also been featured on Risen Motherhood and Coffee+Crumbs. You can connect with her on her blog (bethanybroderick.com) and on Instagram (@bethanygbroderick).
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