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Topics: Marriage, Motherhood, Womanhood, Women, Women in Ministry

Embracing Our Limits

September 9, 2014


By Rondi Lauterbach


It’s that time of year—commitment time. When someone asks you to be team mom, or teach third grade Sunday School another year, what is your knee jerk response? Are you overwhelmed? Or do you jump at the opportunity?

I remember having this conversation with a friend over ten years ago. As we talked about the new school year that was beginning, she mused, “We’re always living our lives in the tension between embracing our limits and expanding our capacities.”

That phrase has stuck with me. It’s true. I feel the tension whenever I’m faced with making choices about how to invest my time and energies. I tend to push my limits, saying “yes” to everything that seems good and right.

Every woman is given different limits and different capacities within those limits. The real question is how we live in light of those realities.

Limits Are Real

Here’s a quick definition: Limits are the boundaries of my life. Capacity is what’s inside those boundaries, the potential that’s meant to be cultivated. Picture a field with a fence.

The reason limits are to be embraced is because they are God-given. He is the one who sets boundaries. He does this for our good, to serve as a reminder that we’re just creatures. Only the Creator is unlimited in energy, intelligence, strength, gifts, resources, and benevolence. I quickly run out of each of those, especially benevolence.

Limits are actually a gift (Rom. 12:3). Do we believe that? We’re meant to understand our personal limits. God wants to protect us, not just from wearing ourselves out, but from trying to play God. Taking our place as limited creatures is good for our souls.

Pushing Our Limits

There’s just one problem. Limits are so limiting, aren’t they? There’s so much to be done, and not enough people or time to do it. I guess I have no choice but to push against that fence until it gives way, I think to myself.

How can you tell if you’re a limit-pusher? As you make your plans for this year, do you find yourself?

  • making overlapping commitments instead of choosing?
  • allowing unrealistic transition time?
  • shortchanging essentials? (your responsibilities, your job, food, sleep!)
  • trying to squeeze in one more thing?
  • not recognizing that a “yes” in one area automatically means “no” to others?

One way to tell if you’re pushing your limits is to watch for crud that begins to surface:

  • habitual busyness—so normal, it feels wrong not to be busy
  • frequent agitation—everything has to go right for my plan to work
  • low grade frustration—everything rarely goes right!
  • constant striving—pushing harder when things go wrong
  • “get outta my way!”—people becoming an obstacle

All of these are symptoms of the pride that fuels our push against limits. Yes, pride is the bad news underneath this self-imposed pressure. But I have some good news for you.

A Story of Limits

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells a story to help his disciples understand how to live until he returns. It’s a familiar one to many of us—the parable of the talents.

It tells of a master who was called away on a long trip and leaves his property in the hands of his servants. He gives each of them a different amount of cash to manage, depending on each one’s ability. You could say he gave them limits.

As far as I can tell none of them pushed their limits. The two talent servant didn’t try to act as if he had five. The one talent person didn’t complain that he needed two (he did other things wrong, but more on that next post). What did they do instead of pushing?

They lived aggressively within their limits and watched their capacity expand.

The first piece of good news is this: “limits aren’t necessarily limiting.”

But there’s even better news here for us. We may fail to embrace our limits humbly and invest our talents as aggressively as we could, but there is one who did.

The Master and the Servant

Jesus told this story about himself. He’s the good master, who trusts his servants enough to give us his treasure to invest while he’s gone. He entrusts us to raise children, nurture neighborhoods, serve our church, and solve problems of all kinds. He will return to commend and reward us.

But Jesus is also the “faithful and wise servant,” who left heaven to embrace our limits. He lived meekly, but also aggressively within the human body and fallen world where he was placed, cultivating that field with his own blood. And we are the crop.

Be free to embrace your limits imperfectly, because he embraced them perfectly for you.


Rondi entered the Ivy League full of personal ambition and left under a new Master. Her passion is to help women see Jesus in the Word and be nourished by him. She has been a pastor’s wife for over thirty years, a mother of three, and now a very happy grandmother. She and her husband Mark live in San Diego, where she blogs at

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