When limitations are meant to liberate you.
I remember reading when my children were young that limitations inspired creativity. The author was making the case for open-ended, simple toys and he argued that if a child has a toy for every occasion (a firetruck that sirens, a doll that talks, eats, walk, a kitchen set that runs water and has a microwave) there would be no need for a child to engage their own imagination. A cardboard box may not look like much, but with imagination, it could become a house, a fort, a table, or whatever he could imagine. Limitations open the eyes to possibilities.
Necessity is the mother of invention, conventional wisdom tells us, and I know from experience that I’m more creative and aware in the midst of glaring lack.
Those days that grocery money was short? Those were the days I experimented with food in the pantry, or came up with creative ways to do free outings with the children.
The days when I lacked organization? I quickly conjured up ways to consolidate my schedule and simplify my life, finding time I didn’t know existed.
On the days when I’ve lacked wisdom, strength, or even health, I’m sometimes tempted to push through to my desired end as though I wasn’t lacking at all. I did this recently when I wasn’t feeling well. I was dizzy but kept ignoring it and nearly fainted as I was getting ready to run errands.
I was acting as though the limitation was a barrier, when in fact, it was a way to re-route my day as God intended.
The Bible is full of examples of women who have been limited by some circumstance or another. The widow with her last few drops of oil and flour, Mary and Martha whose brother was ill and the Good Physican appeared to show up too late, the woman at the well with a thirsty soul, Hannah who desperately desired a child, and the list could go on and on. In each instance, God showed Himself strong in a personal way to these women in their pain.
If everything was just so in our lives, I don’t think we’d have much need for God or anyone else. I think we’d be unbearably proud and self sufficient if our toys did everything for us.
In our limits, we tend to feel our need more keenly and look beyond ourselves and see with different eyes. Spiritual eyes. Seeking those things that are above eyes.
Maybe God has given you limits today that you’d never have chosen, and certainly didn’t plan. Perhaps you find yourself lost, floundering, or wondering if you’ve come all this way only to have traveled the wrong path. Maybe you’ve been disappointed by those who should have loved you well and turned out to only love themselves after all.
I’ve had my share of limitations over the years and though I’d never have chosen them, God has helped me to embrace them as good gifts with God’s enabling. They’ve made me more empathetic to the hurting and have helped me to be creative when it comes to serving God in ways I’d never thought I would. Limitations have shaped me in ways that the good life never could.
I love the wisdom of Elisabeth Elliot who talks about trusting God when circumstances don’t turn out like we thought:
“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”
Sometimes the thing we think would make us happy, in the end, brings us pain. And the thing we kicked against, the unwanted circumstance, the crucible, is the means of our sanctification and growth.
I wanted to share a few verses on waiting with hope and with Christ-centered eyes in the middle of your wilderness season. May these verses help you re-assess the lack you feel and embrace it as God’s very best for you in this moment.
Lamentations 3:24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
Psalms 42:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.