Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Receiving the gift of limits

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Receiving the gift of limits

by: Bo Noonan

posted on: Jul 13, 2017

Our world often sees limits as a weakness or as an obstacle; a spiritually healthy person should see them as a gift.

Think about Jesus’ life. For 30 years he lived in obedience to his parents and others in authority. As far as we know from the Scriptures he didn’t do miracles, didn’t teach the masses, and didn’t reveal himself to be the unique Son of God.

There were earthly limits placed on him that he received. It was a big enough stretch to see a 30-year-old man teach and act in that culture, let alone a teen or pre-teen.

Even though all things were created by him, through him and for him, (Col. 1:16) he received the limits of being submitted to parents, space and time, hunger, weariness, etc…

Not to mention, he was just in the Israel area, never did he walk in North America, Asia, Europe, or Africa. All the sick and needy and oppressed, he could only be one man in one location. Was this frustrating for him?

The truth is, it was obedience to the Father that kept him within the limits.

The first sin of Adam and Eve was not receiving the gift of limits. They were given freedom in the Garden, with one exception, don’t eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

John the Baptist modeled this well… Crowds that had followed John and been baptized by John suddenly turned and followed Jesus. Some of John’s followers were upset by this and talked to John about it…

John the Baptist said, “A person can receive only what is given from heaven.” (John 3:27)

He was saying, I am able to accept my limits, my humanity, my declining popularity. I am not the center of the universe. I am not God.

I think this has been a big battle for me as a leader.

People love to project onto leaders. They had a boss who was like this and now they want their boss to be like that old boss. People had an old pastor who use to do this and now they want the new pastor to do that too.

We project onto ourselves. When I first started preaching I wanted to be just like Dr. John Piper. His preaching created worship in me, he was sound in his doctrine, he was serious about the Word of God.

So serious in fact that he didn’t tell jokes or clever antidotes. He would say things like DON’T PUT WORDS INTO GOD’S MOUTH! Just preach the word as it is.

I loved that. People would come up to me and say, hey you’re funny and light when we’re hanging out, but you’re so serious when you preach. I took that as a compliment. I was being like John Piper.

Then I found out that Piper spent 13 hours a day in his study, reading and preparing. That’s what I should do! But I couldn’t, that was painful for me.

I needed to learn to DIFFERENTIATE.

DIFFERENTIATION is a word often used in Family Systems Theory, the main idea is this…

It’s the ability to separate yourself from the pressures and people around you, but to also stay connected.

So in family life, you’re like your siblings, you’re connected through DNA and family structure, but you’re different. You’re like your dad, connected to him, yet different.

So for me, as I grew as a Leader, I felt connected to John Piper, I loved what he was saying, God was using it to fill my heart with worship, yet I was not John Piper, I was uniquely created. I am not as smart as John Piper, I don’t have the ability to sit in a room and study for 13 hours a day, nor do I want to. I had to learn to differentiate.

Jesus was the ultimate differentiator. He was like us, chose to humble himself in that way, walked among people, experienced what they experienced, got hungry, had all kinds of emotions, and yet he chose to stay connected to the Father and the Father’s good and perfect will.

He was secure in who he was. When we’re insecure in whom we are, we often fail to differentiate.

Not saying we can’t learn from others and model ourselves after them, but success is not measured in walking out someone else’s calling, it’s in walking out your calling.

So how do we know what our limits are?

Exercise #1

1. What kind of personality do you have?

This is a God given personality. If you feel obligated to be an extrovert when you’re really an introvert, your tank will run empty soon. If you feel obligated to be a risk taker, when you are more of a play it safe person, you will run on empty soon.

2. What season of life are you in?

Your season of life is a God-given limit. Parenting has seasons. Health issues create seasons of life. Financial standing creates a season of life. Studying and preparing is another season of life. Marriage is very fluid and presents all kinds of different seasons. Grieving and loss is a season of life.

3. What are your emotional, physical and intellectual capacities?

These are also God-given gifts. One thing I’ve had to learn is a balance of study and people time. If I have too much study time I get very difficult to be around because I think I’m the center of everything. I need to schedule people time in. But if I have too much people time and not enough study, I can get worn out pretty quickly. I get recharged in study, and with people, but I can’t overdose on one or the other.

4. What are your “difficult” emotions?

Anger, depression, and rage for example, often function as an engine light for us, informing us that something on the inside is not right. This is how God gets our attention, “Hey, you need to receive the gift of limits and get recharged in me.”

As Christians we are all called to love people well. For some of us we can love lot’s of people well, others can love one or two well. The number is not the point, the point is that we do it well. We must receive the gift of limits to love people well.

5. God Works Through Our Limitations

Sara was ninety and Abraham was described as, AS GOOD AS DEAD, yet they became the father and mother of a nation.

Elijah and Jeremiah were prone to depression and yet used mightily by God.

Moses was 80 years old when God called him to a task that required the physical and emotional stamina of a 25 year old.

Timothy was timid by nature, personality trait, and yet God used him to lead a church in Ephesus that was plagued with divisions, problems and conflicts.

Paul reminded him that God had not given him a Spirit of Fear.

Write down a couple of things you can do to feel energized? What keeps you from doing these things? 

 

Audio from this session can be found here.


additional resources

  

Session 4 worksheet



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