Sunday, December 6, 2009

Knowing Your Limitations

I snuggle closer to the heater, pick up my crochet hook and blue nubby yarn. Chain one, two, three...I stop and look at the instruction page again to check myself. I sigh, knowing what I'm creating won't look like the perfect version pictured here. There will be mistakes. Some stitches will be looser than others. Some stitches, I might skip entirely.

I could give up easily. But, I continue, as always.

This is the story of my life. In college, I studied diligently to achieve a 4.00 GPA in Honors English. First in my graduating class--you'd think that would give me a huge boost in confidence. But, it didn't.

Not beautiful enough to be a model. Not much natural musical talent to be a Mozart. Not a strong enough voice to make me an overnight singing sensation. Not gifted enough with words to write a best seller. Not a powerful enough speaker to draw a following crowd.

No matter my achievements, my heart has always proclaimed the truth that no matter how good I am at anything--there's always going to be someone better, smarter... closer to perfection.

This mentality is good in a way because it helps be combat my human tendency toward pride. But it's also self defeating because it leaves me with a fear of trying something--anything--new, something else I won't be perfect at.

God's word says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Ecc.9:10).

I know this is true. The thing my hand strives "to do" is to live for Christ and obey His commands. But maybe you're like me--you strive to be perfect for Christ...only to fail.

Perhaps you're short-tempered with your children or husband. Perhaps you miss opportunities to share Jesus. Perhaps your prayer life isn't all it should be.

When our life's focus is split among so many things--job, children, household chores--it is difficult to keep our eyes on Jesus. So, what are we to do? Do we give up?

Do we just accept that our commitment to Him will always be second best?

The sixth Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, Philipps Brooks (1835-1893) discussed this very issue in his book, Visions and Tasks, and Other Sermons. He states that we incorrectly limit what we can achieve:

"There is nothing which comes to seem more foolish to us, I think, as years go by, than the limitations which have been quietly set to the moral possibilities of man. They are placedly and perpetually assumed. 'You must not expect too much of him,' so it is said. 'You must remember that he is only a man, after all'" (330).

Then, he explains why our self-imposed limitations are ridiculous: "Why man's moral range and reach is practically infinite, at least no man has yet begun to comprehend where its limits lies. Man's powers of conquering temptation, of despising danger, of being true to principle, have never been even indicated, save in Christ. 'Only a man!' that means only a Son of God; and who can begin to say what a Son of God, claiming his Father, may become and be and do?" (330).

You and I may not be perfect. We may not be number one. But in Christ, who knows what limitations we may overcome if we abide in Him.

I hope your prayer and my prayer will be this:

"O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come in you by the grace of God" (Brooks 330).

We don't know our limitations if we keep striving to work in God's ability and power. Let our lives be a miracle.


  1. Jennifer, you have reached right into my heart tonight. I can identify with the feelings and experiences you described. In fact, I just had similar thoughts yesterday and today.

    Isn't God amazing? Thank you for sharing your generous, kind heart. You are a wonderful woman of God, and I appreciate you.

    Much Love,


  2. Well I have to say I disagree with the boundaries you set upon yourself. You ARE beautiful enough to be a model, and you ARE a gifted, talented writer. God has already bestowed these things upon you, but most importantly He has given you the warmth and strength to be a mommy, and your children are surely blessed!