Monday, March 21, 2011

Stand in the Smallness

Last night I dragged my husband to see Limitless, the new Bradley Cooper movie.  I knew it would be bad (it was), but I also knew I wanted to see it.  I'm an external processer, and I had something to process.

For exactly one week my health had been deteriorating.  The unexplained syncopatic episodes were back, fatigue was worsening by the day, and my temper was on edge.  I had had breakthrough at church that morning, but I knew there was more to think through.

The movie delivered.  It affirmed what I had hoped it would: having the ability to live beyond limits would lead to a life I would never want.  (Spoiler alert: in the movie, Bradley Cooper becomes addicted to a drug that lets him access his entire brain.  He quickly amasses wealth and power, but only does so by becoming an addict, murdering many along the way, and making morally questionable choices - and I use the word 'questionable' generously.)

We all have limits.  I mean, it's sort of dumb to even say that - stating the obvious and all.  And yet, I find that most of us act as though we don't while outwardly making sure everyone knows that we do.  Call it false humility, self-defensive self-deprecation, or whatever name you choose, we'll often say things like, "I'm so weak" or "thank God He's for me because, without Him, ...".  Of course, part of us actually believes this, says these things from a place of sincerity, but another, uglier part doesn't.  If we did, we'd ask for help more.

I've been thinking about limits a lot lately.  And decay.  This may sound depressing, but I mean it in a hopeful way: life is a process of decay.  From the moment we are born, our bodies start falling apart.  "One step closer to Jesus," is what one of my friends laughingly says every time he feels the aches and pains of getting older.  There are many ways to think of this, of course....  You could think about how dead organisms create rich soil that produces nutrient-rich food, all through a process of decay.  That is how I am choosing to think about it right now.  I want my dead places to produce life someday.

This has become very real to me this week: I am not healthy and have no idea how to become so (yet - don't worry, dear readers, I haven't given up hope!).  In a word, I am limited

I can't play with my children as much as I want, go out with friends whenever I want (or barely ever, it seems), keep the house orderly and clean, give my husband any extra help he might need, write for hours and hours on end without pacing myself.

Whereas before it might not have been a good idea to do some of these things, now I simply can't.  My body won't let me.  It literally shuts down if I don't move slowly with lots of rest stops along the way through every day.  What thirty-three-year-old do you know that can't make it through an afternoon without a nap? 

(Again, this isn't about want or preference, this is about need.  If I ignore my limits, I physically stop functioning.)

As I embrace my limits, life gets simpler.  It's as if the walls of my world are closing in on me, in a good way.  My little sphere is smaller, better defined, so I can see it better.  Up close and personal.  Every detail in high relief as the Sun shines in.

I was talking to a friend earlier today.  Her grief and dismay made me very sad.  I love her and want so desperately to help her.  All I could think was: "you need to stand in the smallness of who you are."  Embrace your limits.  As you do, the unnecessary will fall away; what remains will be clear.  You will be better able to see.

I know this.  I'm not articulating very well right now, but this is a truth I am learning and a truth I have learned.  Asking for help is crucial; letting people see our frailty is key.  The weakness is our part of the picture - we need to leave the strength part up to Him.

The picture I have is of a young woman standing in a field of wildflowers on a sunny day.  Head bowed, arms stretched wide, sun streaming down.  She is acknowledging her limits, embracing humility in the deepest, most life-giving way.  There is a smile on her face.  There is no condemnation, only joy as she receives His love.

This is my hope for all of us.

How do you cope with the limits in your own life? 

Linking up with Jen and the ladies at Soli Deo Gloria today.


  1. I am sorry you are going through this. The first thing I thought of was I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Praying that for you tonight.

  2. How do I cope? Well, I try to remember that my GOD has no limits, no lack of ability to see me through, and unfailing LOVE for me. "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor. 12:10

  3. That did happen -- the unnecessary did fall away. And all that was left was grace. Love you, friend.

  4. Such beautiful words . . . stand in the smallness of who you are. I am a person who spent a lot of energy making sure I was never small. This speaks a lot of freedom. I am sorry for the physical limitations you are having, it must be difficult . . . but thank you for sharing what you are learning with us.


  5. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. I am sorry about your condition and you are in my prayers. You make so many good points, especially about asking for help. It is okay to need help - that is a lesson I have to learn over and over.

  6. I'm adopting that "one step closer to Jesus." Physical issues are hard to deal with -- I'm not sure how well I always deal with them. I try to get my rest and journalling through some of the pain helps. I only give myself five minutes to write about the pain then begin to list the things I'm thankful for. It may not lessen the pain, but it does change my attitude towards it.

  7. I like the picture you see better than the kicking-screaming-tantrum-throwing one I think I would portray in your shoes. Your kind of joyful receiving is so much better and so much closer to who God made us to be. May you fully receive His strength.