I recall a panel discussion with pastors Mark Driscoll and John Piper in which they were discussing their study habits.
Driscoll was a veracious reader, watcher, and all around consumer of culture. He mentioned having multiple DVR’s, perusing magazines, and reading hundreds of pages a week, all in preparation for teaching and leading his church.
Piper, having heard all this, seemed taken aback and commented that he could never do all that. If I remember correctly, he said such a pace would “do violence to [his] soul.”
Now Piper is no intellectual slouch. He is a prolific writer, a deep thinker, and a bona fide Ph.D. But, Piper knew his limitations.
Theoretically, it would be great for John Piper to read and know more about culture and current trends in thinking, but in reality, Piper realized such high aspirations would not in fact lead him higher, but actually bring him lower. He would be duller, not sharper. He would in some way harm his soul.
Moral of the story? You can’t do everything. You can’t be everything to everyone. You’re finite. You’re limited. You red-line. You grow dull. More is not always better. More of better is not always better. Someone else’s ideal is not your ideal. We have limitations, and we are wise to heed them. I can think of at least two reasons why this is true.
1. Our limitations outline the contours of who we are and who we are meant to be. For example, if you’re a slow reader, you may be by consequence a deeper thinker. So to eliminate your slow reading, may eliminate your deep thinking. Thus, your limitation may simply be an inverse of your strength and perhaps even a prerequisite to your strength. (I am not talking about moral failings like passionate/angry, or lazy/laid back).
2. Our limitations are opportunities for God’s power to shine. Paul embraced his limitations because he knew at those very points God would shine through brightest (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). If we are always so focused on being stronger and doing more, we will miss just how strong God is and how much more He can do.
Of course, some will say, “But we should be ‘poured out’ as Paul was. We should extend ourselves.” Yes! I agree. We should be stretched and strained for the love of God and for the love of neighbor. But we must be sure we are stretching and straining, investing and taking risks with the talents we DO have, not the ones we DON’T have. Sure, there are daily moments and even seasons of extreme stretching, but otherwise, let us be content and confident in who God made us to be. God is enough in our weakness.
So, know your limitations. Embrace your limitations. Boast in your limitations. They reflect the contours of your God-given shape, and they are an opportunity for God’s power to break forth.