The Grace of Limits

There is irony to be sure, in the fact that yesterday I wrote a post about how helpful walking is for me as a spiritual practice in general, but especially as a part of grieving.  Then last night I pulled a flattened box out from beside the fridge and out popped a strip of wood with four long nails sticking out.  It seems to be the remnants of getting our flooring replaced last March and has been hiding ever since.  I didn’t see the offending nails and stepped right on one with my bare foot and then promptly screeched.  It could have been much worse, the nails were long enough to go right through my foot (no stigmata jokes please) but only punctured the bottom (yes, my tetanus shots are up to date).  I cleaned it up and now its pretty sore, so no walking for a few days.

I had a spur-of-the-moment lunch yesterday with a good friend (pre-puncture).  We both are involved with multiple projects as a part of our work, needing to work several places to bring in enough income.  And we both struggle to find enough time for writing.  I love the different workshops I get to do and the people I meet, but sometimes juggling all those pieces seems more tiring than if I worked one job with more hours.  Plus working from home quite a bit I never fully leave work behind. A while back I was reading someone’s blog (sorry I can’t remember which it was) and they mentioned working as a coffee roaster.  I was so taken with that image of working in a job so tactile and being able to leave it behind at the end of the day.  So my friend and I were daydreaming out loud together about what kind of part-time job we’d like to have in an alternate universe where it would support our writing.  I think something like working in an animal shelter or a wildlife sanctuary sounds wonderful.  

Sometimes I like to imagine what my parallel life would look like, the one with unlimited time and energy and money.  I would certainly have time for learning the guitar and biblical Hebrew, taking more art classes, working on an organic farm and volunteering with animals, doing training in CPE, and cooking lavish dinners every night.

And yet my life is so very rich and full.  The above is more an exercise in imagination and playfulness than any deep-rooted dissatisfaction.  I am blessed that my husband and I commit to living simply so that I have more freedom around the choices I make for work and we have more time to spend together.

One of my life-long struggles has been always having more creative ideas than I could ever possibly act on.  Sometimes it is frustrating to hit your own limits so firmly. But lately I have been trying to embrace the grace of limits.  God will always have far more possibilities open to me than I can ever live into.  That is part of the abundance of holiness and the limits of my humanity.  Embracing my limits means being that much more intentional about the choices I do make.  It means knowing that the world will always be full beyond measure, overflowing, and in this lifetime I will only get a taste. 

So with this new limit on my foot I will explore other ways of embodied exploration.  Grief brings a sharp awareness of limits.  Yet the other side of it is the knowledge that I have loved fully and well. The grace of limits invites us into the fullness of what we can do, to celebrate our choices, and to live in gratitude for possibility.

-Christine Valters Paintner

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