Welcoming Limitations.

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For the past year or so, the over-arching theme in God’s lessons for me has been simple: Respect Your Limits.

Respect the boundaries I have set and the weaknesses I have given you.

Sigh.

As you can imagine, these are not easy lessons to learn. I would like to burn the candle at both ends and in the middle because life is So. Full. I didn’t say “busy,” a word which I’ve started to reject. Life is so rich, so full, and so permeated with possibility and opportunity.

But it is also easy for me to focus on that next thing, or to dive deeply into wonderful projects, in order to ignore the hard things that require my attention.

Familiar to anyone else?

Who would prefer to learn a new program, to try some new editing techniques, to organize a styled shoot–rather than sitting down and doing the hard work of self-examination, of confession, of working on relationships, of dealing with idolatry posing as Worthwhile Activity?

I know I would.

But sometimes God intervenes.

In this particular case, I fell. And it wasn’t good. After an MRI, this I-chase-children-down-the-beach photographer had a couple of things to deal with: knee surgery, and the discovery of advanced arthritis in both knees that will only get worse.

“Will you slow down and deal with some hard things, or I need to do something else?” I could almost hear the Lord speaking.

Sobered: “We can learn this now.”

Physical, emotional, spiritual limtiations. The Lord started shining light on various areas: my deep need to be perfect, my need to be approved, my need to protect everyone else. They were needs which started revealing their true nature: not only brokenness and weakness, but in many cases idolatry. Things I trust more than Christ. Places I turn before I turn to him. Burdens I have taken on myself that are rooted in lies and brokenness.

Man.


It is hard to look at the limits that God has given you–physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, even some of the circustance in which he has placed us–and see them as part of his very best for me.

But here is the reality: my weaknesses are daily, hourly, moment-by-moment reminders of my dependence on Christ.

We ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves2 Cor. 4:7

A fragile, fragile vessel. Pretty much the opposite of what I try to be, how I feel I must be. Jesus gently reminds me: first, Kate, you’re a fragile jar of clay. You weren’t meant to shoulder All The Things. I was.

And the second reality that is even more profound: I am a simple vessel filled with the gospel of Christ, the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  The point is Jesus. The whole purpose is Jesus and his glory. I don’t have great power on my own–not powers of marketing, of art, of creating gorgeous records of family history, of helping small businesses through my work.

Those may be gifts and talents that the Lord is developing in me, but they aren’t my power.

Christ is my power. In indeed, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is at work in me.

When I read Scotty Smith’s blog this morning. one part of his prayer stood out to me in beautiful relief:

Though I’d rather be a swaggering vessel of togetherness and impressiveness, giftedness and smartness, help me delight in being a fragile jar of clay—releasing the aroma of grace, the wonders of your love, and the beauty of your heart.

Oh, Lord. Yes. I want to be “together”–and I am sometimes crushed by how obviously un-together I am. But to be a simple vessel, giving off the aroma of grace, pointing others to you?

Yes, it would be worth embracing the reality of my weakness and limits to be that.

Jesus, as I go about this day with all of its demands, let me rest in the completed work of the Cross, in my deep need of salvation, in your absolute and complete provision. Lord, you have given me limits, and they are there for your glory. I pray that you would allow me to respect the limits that you have given me–not self-imposed limitations grounded in fear or doubt, but the boundaries that you have created in me–need for sleep, time with those I love, time with you. I come with open hands. My business is yours–a way for you to use me in this city, a way I reflect your creativity. But my identity and worth do not lie there–they are safely hidden away in you. My family is yours–your work in their lives, their own struggles and weakness and lessons. My friends are yours, and so are the people you’ve given us to minister to at church. My body and my limits are yours. Use it all for your glory, and let the fragrance of your gospel cling to everything I do. In the name of Jesus, who has all authority in heaven and on earth. Amen.

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