Learning Limits

Faster, stronger, higher, greater. In modern society, limits are pushed, not praised. World records drop like pages on a pull-away calendar; new devices for multitasking and limitless work are devised daily; commitments are getting crammed into tighter and tighter crevices.

Let us juxtapose our limit-pushing with the limit-protecting ways of the rest of creation. Many animal species create scent boundaries. When each group stays within its appointed limits, peace and prosperity are more likely to outweigh conflict and competition. Leaves don’t hang on when its time to fall, they seem to accept their limits. Desert dwellers don’t try to push into temperate regions, nor do arctic animals force their way to the tropics. Seasonal flowers don’t attempt to bloom year round.


The lower creation does not have as much choice regarding the learning of limitations as does humanity, the crown of creation (Psalm 8). This is both blessing and curse for fallen man. Endowed with reason and stamped with the image of God, we have the capacity to press our limits. From the fateful bite of the forbidden fruit to the towering limit-testing in Babel to the Titanic boasts of an unsinkable ship, humanity has been pressing its limits.

Pressing limits is not all bad, as anyone who has been treated with medicine rather than leaches can attest. However, when humanity’s hubris denies and/or defies the Divine Creator and His Created order, we enter into dangerous territory.

Each of us limited in time, limited in space, limited in capacity, limited in gifts, limited in power, limited in knowledge. We intrinsically know this on a grand scale. We laugh at a child who claims he will dig his way to China or call a man who claims to fly or travel through time a lunatic. We don’t expect one person to win a Nobel Peace prize, a Pulitzer and a Heisman trophy.

However, on the smaller scale, we tend to both deny and defy our limits. We even celebrate those who push limits. The busier, the more successful. The stronger and skinnier, the healthier. The more over-committed, the more important. As a result, we are a haggard humanity, frazzled and frayed, over-stimulated and under-satisfied.

Our culture abounds with tips about rest and satisfaction, yet our attempts at vacation, relaxation, meditation and simplification seem to produce a short and surface-level peace and rest. While addressing symptoms, these solutions fail because they do not get to the root of the problem.

Into this limit-pushing hubris of humanity, Christianity speaks a desperately-needed word:

Only true humility leads to true rest.

Humanity is created and, thereby, dependent upon and subservient to a Creator. Peace and prosperity, health and hope flow when we submit to this truth. We cannot be all things to all people at all times; God alone can. We do not know all things; God alone does.

Through His Word, we learn His created order and where we fit into it. We learn of  Good Father whose limits are meant our peace and prosperity, one who longs that we would be dependent upon Him. We learn of a God who not only encourages, but commands Sabbath rest wherein we are reminded that God alone is God and we are His children. When we rub against the grain of the universe, we will get splintered. When we humbly submit and obey, we find true rest.

Learning our limits is a sign of maturity. Living within our limits is a sign of humility.

Raindrops dance in descent,
Leaves know when to Fall,
Yet we resist humility,
We, the crown of all.

Clamoring to make self known,
Competing, clawing and such.
We refuse our proper place,
Thereby missing His touch.

Waves bend at boundaries,
Monarchs follow their flight.
We alone refuse our limits,
Exacerbating our plight.

Bowing beneath the Greater,
Accepting our finite frame,
In submission we find rest,
Kneeling we find our true name.

Droplets and deciduous darlings,
Waves and all winged wild,
Put us to shame in humility,
Teach us how to be mild.

The One who whispered the wind,
The Commander of every crest,
Took on the form of a servant,
In Jesus alone we can rest.


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