Day 5: Accepting our Limitations

Today we have a treat, a guest post by Paula Gamble, a spiritual director from the Pacific Northwest.  She leads ReFresh retreats and blogs here.


She has a beautiful Lenten Series.  Here’s an excerpt: 

Unhurry Up into Easter: A Lenten Pilgrimage


Hi friend!  I’m so glad you’ve decided to come by today.  Here is a chance to drop your shoulders, inhale deeply and enjoy a few minutes resting with Jesus.  All photos are my husband, Andrew’s, and were taken on his retreat in Wellston, Michigan.  Enjoy a renewing Sabbath, take a walk around the Lake and come on a five minute retreat with Paula Gamble.


Lean into God’s love, centering your attention and focus toward Him.


Find a quiet, comfortable space.


Take a clear glass of water…swirl it a few times, set it down and watch it settle.
As you do, pray God will settle your own soul. If any distractions (to-do’s, people, etc) come, simply utter, “Lord, settle my soul” and refocus.


Once you feel more settled, move on.


Evaluate honestly how you are as you come into His presence.


With what are you most preoccupied?


Quietly lift these things into God’s hands and pray:  “Help me to be open to what you want to reveal to me today about Your Real Self and about my real self.”


Notice what stirs your soul as you interact with the following: “Remember,” the priest said as he marked my forehead with ashes, “you are from dust, and to dust you will return.” All my growing up years I liked the feel of the priest’s thumb making the sign of a cross an inch below my hairline, but honestly, I had no idea what he was talking about….not until three decades later.


Out of curiosity (perhaps desperation) and a sense that I really wanted and needed a renewed focus on God amidst the busy/crazy frenetic pace of my life, I attended an Ash
Wednesday service. It was during this service that I finally heard it: The priest shared a homily in which he said, “We put ashes on our forehead to remind us of our creatureliness – that we are limited and cannot do it all.


Unaware I had come into this church service with even physical stiffness from the stress of my current pace of life and ministry, upon hearing his words, I felt a literal lightening of
my body, soul and spirit. “Oh thank goodness,” I uttered silently. I felt the permission to feel okay being human – unable to please everyone and fulfill their expectations, unable to know everything, unable to finish everything I started, unable to “fix” myself or others! I don’t think I have ever experienced such liberating freedom! So this, of all days, [in the beginning of Lent], is a magnificent day to celebrate our frail, limited, finite humanness!


Ash Wednesday is a time for us to remember that we are made from dust – from dirt fashioned into humanity – and apart from God breathing life into our nostrils, we are nothing (Acts 17:28).

We are made from dust and to dust we shall return means that we need to learn to   embrace our creatureliness. We reconcile with ourselves that we are finite, limited, and contrary to all the advertisements and sermons and societal pressures and demands, we cannot do it all, know it all, or be in two places at the same time. Indeed, we are not omniscient, omnipresent nor sovereign… though I admit that sometime I forget this little
fact. I so easily “trespass” on God’s turf! Ash Wednesday is the chance for us to remember that God is God – and we are not. It is a chance for us to affirm that we cannot grant everyone’s wishes, we might often be prone to forget things, we can’t always complete our to-do lists, and we don’t have unlimited resources to live and work at a pathologically busy pace.


Does hearing this liberate or frustrate you?


What do you do when you encounter your finiteness and
limitations ?

1. Do you have a hard time saying no?
2. Do you have a hard time asking for help?
3. Do you pretend to know something when you don’t really?
4. Do you make more lists or have you given up?
5. Do you readily acknowledge that you sometimes are selfish -but that this does not separate you from the love of God?
6. Or do you heap a condemning pile of “shoulds” and “oughts”upon yourself and those closest to you?
7. Do you get angry when there is an interruption or when you cannot control a situation?


And herein is the point of our faith: Despite our humanness and in the midst of our fickleness, as we try to navigate the busy swirl of modern life that does not always bring out the best in us…we are loved!


Ash Wednesday is a magnificent day to celebrate that God, fully knowing our humanness, is not worn out, disappointed or mad at us. Gently he invites us to come to him…to return to him…to open our hearts to trust his love in the midst of our restlessness, jealousies, and compulsions to look, feel and be secure.

Some say that the more we travel on this journey toward intimacy with Christ, each of us must gain the ability to embrace our limitations. In fact, it might even be considered a mark of maturity – no need for the ego to overcompensate with a candy-coated illusion of “togetherness.” If we want to deepen in our relationship with an infinite God then life, at least our life of faith, will have more ambiguity, not less. We will encounter the paradox of the Certainty of Mystery, of living unanswerable questions and of feeling deeply loved in the midst of our incompleteness. Our measurement of our maturity is, perhaps, stopping the charade of goodness, and the striving to be infinite … and to let God be God – the One who loves us in the midst of our finite limitations.


What are you expectations of yourself today?


Are you weary and burdened by the ongoing limitations of your humanness?




Jesus invites: “Come to me..“(Mt. 11:28-30)


As you consider these words: What word or phrase stands out to unnerve or ignite you?
What might you like to say to God in response?
Then take 3-5 minutes in silence to listen to what He might want to say to you.
Trust Him to open your heart toward fully receiving and living into His love.
How do you feel knowing that you are finite, limited, not created to do it all, have it all, be it all?
As you leave this space, ask God to help you be aware of your humanness… and in the midst of it, to stop, embrace your limitations, and trust His love that embraces you.

This is Day 5 of the Lenten Series: Cross-Shaped Evangelism.  If you would like to catch up, click here.


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