“Know your limits, then push them.”

We hear this and see this and usually don’t give it a second thought. Motivational inspirational quotes are everywhere these days.

But real life? Is it so neat and tidy and slogan-worthy?

Life’s Limits

This past weekend I brushed up against some real-life limits that made me stop and think about the whole idea of constraints and restraints.

Friday, while I was lifting at the gym (let me pause to add that I’m not going to bore you with numbers or even try to recruit you, however if there are other PCA grandmas who powerlift, please get in touch because the two of us could start a club!) I strained my left quadricep. My vastus lateralis went “sproing” (technical term). Calmly, matter-of-factly, my coach remarked “Well, now we know that weight is your limit. For now.”

Later that evening, I paused from chopping the veggies and looked up. “Steve, that looks like a leak and it wasn’t there yesterday.” Sure enough, the AC drain pipe upstairs was clogged and overflowing onto the carpet, beneath the floor, and into the ceiling below.

I suppose I didn’t have enough to do that evening, because I decided it was time to upgrade my laptop’s operating system. This of course set a chain of events in motion that involved 3,857 restarts, endless time spent on technical support boards, two trips to the geek group, and a wait for new parts.  Could this weekend get any better?  (Would I be writing this blog post if it had?)

By the time Saturday night arrived, Steve and I were looking forward to a boring evening at home, nothing more exciting than a cup of coffee and Netflix, except there was this thing in his eye. Earlier that afternoon, my safety-smart, protective-eyewear-in-place, husband had been chiseling in the garage and wiped an innocuous speck of sawdust from his eye. A few hours later it was either still there or else the damage was. A couple more hours of “this is not getting better” finally resulted in the decision to head to the ER for help. (In case you’ve ever wondered “How will I know when it’s time to drag my husband to the doctor?” Trust me. You’ll know. If he goes willingly, it’s serious.)

Limits are serious things and sometimes—scary things. When we push ourselves physically we can reach that point where our body says “No. It’s time to stop now.” Other times, limiting factors like a pipe malfunction or break end up overflowing and causing damage to other things, which results in a mess. Then there are the times when circumstances reveal a system’s inability to handle stress. A machine can be taxed beyond its limit.  Finally, there are times when even a person has reached the limit at which “enough is enough.”

Limits may in fact be scary, but they have their purpose as well. Pain tells us to stop, the mess tells us what needs to be fixed, and the stress reveals where the insufficiency lies and what resources are needed. And even people sometimes reach the point where they need someone else to recognize “You’ve come to the end of your limit and I’m here to help.” Speed limits, calorie limits, and even time limits are valuable tools if we realize that, as humans, we are meant to work within the restraints God has placed before us.

Our Limitless God

What does our heavenly Father know and understand about our distaste for, yet thoroughgoing need for limits? Does He get our frustration with living in a world where things break and people hurt? When you look around, do you ever exclaim, like Habbakuk, “O Lord how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2)

If God loves us, His covenant people, with an everlasting love, then how can He understand our limited, finite, flawed frames? How can this limitless God understand what it’s like to crash and burn against a world that seems to oppose us at every turn, where the limits of technology and time are inescapable?  The answer is Jesus. The One who became like us, who willingly accepted the limitations of living in human form, who suffered unbearably, is the one who can bridge the gap.

Muscles can heal, pipes can be unclogged, computers can be upgraded, and modern medicines can preserve sight, but the sad reality is that however hard we strive to push against our limits, there is one goal we will never reach. Thankfully, He reached out to us. The good news of the gospel is not just a way to help us live a pain-free life in the midst of trials; what we need is not immediate comfort and relief. We need a Savior who obeys when we can’t and who sanctifies us so we can, in the here and now, until He comes again. And that’s a limit we can live with.

2016_jan_renee-2aRenee Mathis attends Christ Church PCA in Katy, Texas. She serves on the women’s ministry team, as a regional advisor for the PCA women’s ministry, and an advisory board member for Covenant College. When she’s not enjoying her 5 children and 6 grandchildren, she teaches English, reads books, and drinks coffee.  


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