Sunday, June 29, 2008

Living with Limitations

2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Living with limitations sounds pretty bad. I think of when I had to use a wheelchair for a while. I struggled to get around. I became aware of so many things that I could not do. Something as simple as a flight of stairs could be a major problem. With knee replacement surgery and time to heal, I can walk farther now than I could for many months prior to that.

However, it is a fact that every human lives with limitations. The man who can dead lift a 1000 pound barbell can lift more than anyone except a few of the billions people on this planet. Yet it might be true that he cannot not swim as fast as his 12 year old daughter. Perhaps he pooped out at Algebra II, while his son has breezed through calculus. His wife might be calm and cool as a public speaker, while he breaks a sweat standing up to announce the church potluck.

A lot of motivational speaking is centered on the idea of helping people enlarge the limits of their abilities. Hyperbole is used help folks see that they can often do much more than they had previously thought possible. Perhaps many of us need to be reminded of our potential. I also think many of us need help living with the fact that we have limitations. Understanding that we have limitations is essential for setting realistic goals or expectations.

When the author of 2 Corinthians wrote "though outwardly we are wasting away", it was literally true for him. He led a tough life. I have led a very pampered and privileged life, but as I am living out the last of my fifties, it is a simple truth that physically I am not the man I once was. I have begun a slow process of decay. I may enjoy respites. I may even reverse some of the damage at times. However, ultimately there are only two outcomes for this body: death or deterioration.

If this life and this body were all I have, the prognosis could never be very good. They are not all I have. There are inward parts of me that can grow and grow until the day I die. I can grow in kindness. I can grow in patience. I can grow in love. Inwardly, I am being renewed day by day. Kindness, patience, and love are vastly more important than how high I can jump, how fast I can run, or how much I can lift. May God grant me the strength to grow where I can, and the humility to accept my limitations.
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