Byproducts of Wrestling with Limits

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Byproducts are what results from some other action that might be unforeseen or unintended. We often think of them as what’s left over from manufacturing or using something and it’s not unusual to hear about the word byproduct used in a negative way. One we have heard for several decades is that byproducts of tobacco use lead to cancer and assorted other diseases that can be avoided if we set a limit on using tobacco. When tobacco use first came about, no one knew or thought about what the byproducts of its use might be. How often that has happened with other things, even some medications that were supposed to help us.

When we wrestle with limits imposed on us or asked of us, it’s not unusual to think of that as a negative because it gets in the way of something we want or want to do. We can be tempted to look at what we might miss because of the limit rather than what we can gain, and gains can be significant. Most of us can agree about many of the benefits of eliminating things that could harm us or even take our lives. Some of us acknowledge that limits on what we might want to eat, or drink can provide us with better health and potentially a longer life in the bargain. If we start pondering, we can make a list of good byproducts from limits.

What we often miss is that we were designed for limits by our Creator for our good. All of creation was set in a rhythm and when any aspect of it gets out of those settings, there are problems. The rhythm of orbits keeps the universe and all the planets, stars, and more in check. The rhythm of light and dark, day and night, and seasons teach us about the need for work as well as rest.

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We started to try to violate those rhythms early on but took a giant leap in that direction when we moved from fires and candles to light the night skies with kerosene lamps and then to discovery of electricity. That discovery that has helped us in so many ways also gave us a sense of not only comfort and safety but limitlessness. Now we were not limited to work or other activities by the darkness, and we began to devalue the simpler lifestyles we had known for so long of quieting ourselves, resting, and sleeping after the sun set.

God, the Creator, modeled the limits that would help us navigate life but this discovery and so many others tempted us to believe we could ignore them and live just as well. We could get more done, play longer, and no harm would come to us. We ignored that God worked six days and rested on the seventh even though He was and is God. He rested and enjoyed the blessing of finishing work rather than working endlessly.

“But the rhythms of focusing and finishing seem to be built into the DNA of what it means to be a human being. This is exactly why treating our bodies like machines is wrong; they weren’t made to work without consistent and rhythmic pause points when we finish and rest.”

Justin Whitmel Earley

Any person who has worked in a job that requires shifts can point to the impact of what rhythm changes can do and that doesn’t account for the impact beyond our physical bodies. Our souls, minds, and hearts need rest as well. When we rest, we are not only refreshed but we also gain perspective and insight and can hear from God more clearly.

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Accepting that we are limited isn’t easy and less so if it involves something we really don’t want to have limited. But a byproduct is to grow in humility, to remind us of the rhythm in our DNA, to jog our memory that we need others and are not independently functioning beings. That too has been true from the beginning of time. Once we walk into the story of humanity in Genesis 3 and fall prey to our refusal to accept one limit, we see we are no longer able to take back the damage that it created. We are doomed and cannot save ourselves or the effects of the choice. But the God who is limitless had a plan for that as well out of his love and care, his compassion for our weakness, and it would require Him to set limits on himself by taking on human form to become the perfect sacrifice to restore us to Him as we had been before that choice.

There were many byproducts of that choice and action that we might name, but one of them was and is gratitude and a deeper understanding of limitations and how they are meant for our good much as a horse learns limitations by a bit and bridle. The author of life demonstrated that for us and if we can cease our wrestling just long enough to be still in the striving, we will discover that gift.

Recognizing the benefits of limitations creates thankfulness for areas we have freedom and helps us grow in responsibility to use it wisely instead of trying to ignore or override them. It allows us to rest in the One who never sleeps and who chose limits and understands our frame and mindset far better than we know.

We may never fully stop wrestling with limits but if we grow in wisdom and discernment, God can lead us to know we submit to them for our good and we resist them because He has called and empowered us to do so.

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