Pleasant Boundary Lines {The Grove – Limits}

“Lord, You have assigned my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me …” Psalm 16:6-7

Frankly, I am grieved at my lack of honoring limits. When faced with limits, I push through rather than admit the limits of my capacity. Overwhelmed, I ask for wisdom – and then step right over those boundaries born of wisdom. I somehow think God is more pleased with sacrifice than Sabbath.

Maybe you can relate.

Our disdain for limits is evidenced in many of our cultures’ debt, in our bodies, in unhealthy excess. We resist the idea of pulling back or reducing our influence. We chafe when we are told “no”.

Limit lovers we are not.

But what if we trusted that the limits we bump up against are gifts of mercy? What if we leaned into the idea that our boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places? What if we really embraced our limits?

I have a suspicion experiencing God’s power in my weakness and in my lack is connected to delighting in the boundary lines drawn for me. I’m pretty sure I have lots to learn about honoring limits. So, let me invite you to choose one or more of the following thoughts and questions to ponder with me.

  • Jesus intentionally limited Himself so His purpose could be accomplished. (Philippians 2:5-11)   What would it mean to intentionally give up what you now have to move further into your purpose?
  • Jesus was unknown, hidden, unseen for most of His earthly life. If you feel limited in this season by your culture, organization, team, stage of life, family responsibilities, or health, what might God be doing in you? If your gifts and abilities are unseen, how does the concealment of Jesus’ life speak to your life?
  • Sometimes our heart hasn’t yet caught up with the reality of shrinking – or expanding – boundary lines. If God is resetting your limits to match His plans for you, how are you responding? What do you want to be true about you?
  • Limits invite us – or force us – to choose where to expend our resources. They narrow and clarify our options so we learn to marshal and direct our energies wisely. What does living well within your limits look like in this season, in this place?
  • Sabbath is a boundary, a limit drawn around our work. What would have to change in your lifestyle to lean into a Sabbath-based rhythm of work and rest?

I’d love to learn from you. What does it look like to embrace and honor your limits?

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22 Comments

  1. Leslie Verner November 6, 2015

    Patty, I love this! Anyone who feels limited by place, marital status, or season of life can find something encouraging in your words (which I think covers just about everyone!). “What does living well within your limits look like in this season, in this place?” My season is what I call “The Narrowing”–marriage and kids can feel so limiting for someone who spent her 20’s flying all around the world! And now even going to the grocery store is a huge feat. So I love the idea that God has a purpose for me in this season of life and within these boundaries that HE has chosen for me. Thank you for sharing today and giving me some truth to mull over!

    1. Patty Stallings November 6, 2015

      Leslie, when I first read your term “The Narrowing” on your blog a couple weeks ago, I thought how fitting for moms of young children.  And moms of grown children.  And women as they age.  And women who take care of aging parents.  And… well, the list could go on and on, right?  The image that comes to my mind is squeezing through a narrow passageway and you have to shed all the excess “stuff” you are dragging along to fit through the narrow place.  And as you do, your hands are freed up to welcome the new and the good on the other side of the passageway.  Hmmm, I’m going to be thinking about that image and all the spiritual analogies embedded in it.  Thank you for spurring on my thinking, Leslie!

  2. Ellie November 6, 2015

    Patty, great and challenging, I really want to comment but am finding it hard to get my words together at the moment which is a sign of where I’m at with this “Limits” thing.. I’m so tired and I feel like the Lord is drawing my limits closer and closer in.. and I have to accept it..

    I feel like my lack of Sabbath rhythms within the weekdays (not that I haven’t tried but events became overwhelming) for a period means I’m catching up on them all now..! God says “you can’t do anything but rest and do the “most minimum” things (to me out of “all the things” there are/I am used to doing..) each day.. basic caring for my kids and family.. doing some washing, one or two things a day. Lots of praying, some reading, resting. And it’s hard for me!

    But I sense as you say, if this is him it is a blessing. And I have to accept and trust that what he’s working “under the ground” in the time of “deadness” of winter is vital for the spring flowers – whenever they come (thinking about the story of Joseph and how long his difficult time was and other biblical stories like that of Abraham referred to in the chapter for book club this week that challenged me..God’s timing is “long-big-picture” and I’d better be alright with that if I can..)

    I hate how challenging you lovely ladies are at VA – couldn’t you just do some stuff about how “it’s all fine really” denial instead of all this inner work and acceptance stuff?! 😉

    Blessings to you, friend.

    1. Patty Stallings November 6, 2015

      Ellie, your last comment made me laugh out loud!  So, you haven’t lost your sense of humor in the middle of this season of limits.  🙂

      I think your thoughts about God working underneath in the winter season of the soul – and how that relates to the stories of Joseph and Abraham – are spot on.  I am convinced God is always at work – so when we don’t see the fruit of Him working THROUGH us, He must be working IN us in a significant way.  It’s the pruning, the “cutting away to prepare for new growth” thing.

      So, I’m wondering for you, what it would mean to really lean into this season of rest and minimums?

  3. Valerie November 6, 2015

    Patty, I especially needed the reminder this week that Jesus intentionally limited himself and therefore I shouldn’t by surprised by the limits He gives to me 🙂

    I remember you sharing that verse from Psalm 16 many years ago at a team leader meeting and it stuck out to me as much this week as it did so long ago. I absolutely love that passage. This morning I was processing through some fears I’ve had lately and I was struck by a line in a song I was singing: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.” So while the boundaries lines around me and limits placed on me are to keep me safe and secure, my faith should be limitless and without borders. What a hard dichotomy to walk out! I often get those switched and place boundary lines around my trust/faith and try to set myself free from all the other healthy limits the Father places on me! But what a difference it would make if my trust was without borders.

    1. Patty Stallings November 6, 2015

      …while the boundaries lines around me and limits placed on me are to keep me safe and secure, my faith should be limitless and without borders…

      Yes, yes, yes. Valerie, I love your heart and your pursuit of truth and trust! Thanks for giving me a paradox to ponder today!

  4. Patty Stallings November 6, 2015

    I just read this beautiful post written by my gifted cousin Kirstin. If your soul is being stirred around the topic of limits, you most certainly will be inspired and challenged! https://chrisandkirstinadopt.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/the-last-of-our-oil/

  5. Kelly November 7, 2015

    I am still planning to link up, you know, in my spare time… But for now I’ll jot a few quick thoughts. We are in a tremendously limited spot right now ( toddler and an infant, plus two big boys in school, recent job increase for my husband, financial stress… To name the big ones). And it has put a strain on our marriage and our souls. We are paying attention and digging in. And have to let go of the unnecessaries. I have taken the challenge to do one life-giving thing a day. And we are setting one night a week as balcony date night. Even within the limits- He has come to give Life and life abundant. In Him is LIFE! That’s what I’m clinging to in these hidden, limited days.

    1. Patty Stallings November 8, 2015

      Kelly, you are wise to make sure you are making date nights and life giving things a priority in this season of limits.

      May you find His abundant life moving you to places of rejoicing in the midst of hiddenness.  I remember a particular season of hiddenness in which I felt the Lord and I had secrets together.  He knew the desires of my heart and would be close by when it seemed they would never come to light. He sees everything and loves you so dearly, Kelly.

    1. Anna November 8, 2015

      This is a great checklist!

  6. Shelly Miller November 7, 2015

    Patti, your questions are so good. I’m so glad I clicked this open in my inbox because God has used your words to speak to me during a hard, confusing blip in an abundant, joyful season of life here in London. And the comments are the icing. I popped over to the link you shared as well. I’m sharing this with the Sabbath Society (a group of hundreds who long to make Sabbath a rhythm of life — I’m writing a book about it) next week because your thoughts about limits are so brilliant!

    1. Patty Stallings November 8, 2015

      Thank you, Shelly.  I’ve been inspired and challenged by being a part of your Sabbath Society in these past months.  So, I feel honored to be a part of what you are doing.  (Can’t wait to see your book come into being!)

      May God give you insight and understanding as you press into Him during this blip.  May He infuse your moments with His kindness in the hard place.

  7. Phyllis November 7, 2015

    “But what if we trusted that the limits we bump up against are gifts of mercy? What if we leaned into the idea that our boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places? What if we really embraced our limits?”

    Thank you for that. It’s been following me around for a few days now. I’ll keep chewing on it.

    1. Patty Stallings November 8, 2015

      Me, too, Phyllis.  Me, too.

      I want to rejoice in the kindness of limits and delight in my weakness.  That’s what I want to be true about me in this season.

  8. Anna November 8, 2015

    I tend to push past my limits.  Sometimes I do better than others.  But I had a point this year where I pushed too far and had some major results.  That was a good reminder for me, and I think I needed to see the negative results of not respecting limits.

    1. Patty Stallings November 8, 2015

      Anna, that sounds like one of those “severe mercy” experiences.  May the Lord shepherd your movement through your understanding of exactly what He wants for you.

  9. Mary Gemmill November 13, 2015

    I buck against limitations ….so entirely agreed with your lines: I am grieved at my lack of honoring limits. When faced with limits, I push through rather than admit the limits of my capacity. Overwhelmed, I ask for wisdom – and then step right over those boundaries born of wisdom

    And then the clincher:  

    But what if we trusted that the limits we bump up against are gifts of mercy?

    Oh boy, you got me there.

    Thrilled to see Shelly M here too…as I am also her friend and Sabbath Society member. I think MANY of us will learn from and be blessed by this post. Thank you for sharing this wisdom with us. I really needed to read it !

     

     

     

     

  10. Patty Stallings November 14, 2015

    Mary, thanks for your comments.  It’s nice to know I’m not alone. 🙂   I am seeing God’s mercy in my limits more and more.  I am intrigued by Joseph’s story, in particular this statement in Gen. 39:20:  …But while Joseph was there in prison, the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor… It’s hard to imagine feeling more limited than being in the prime of life, falsely accused, and in prison in a foreign land – if Joseph could see God’s kindness and favor in those confines, I am sure I can see His kindness and favor in my limits as well.

    By the way, Shelly is giving a very good gift to all of us, huh?

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