“Just be patient with me please. I need to step up with my good leg.”
My mother was always calm and insistent when others tried to hurry her along. She paid attention to the challenges of stairs and steps. When I was two years old, she contracted polio, which left her weak in one of her legs. It also robbed her of the active life she had lived up until then. Bowling, golf, enthusiastic dancing were all part of her past life, a life I had never witnessed.
My mom knew her limits. She knew what would rock her off-balance, sending her to the ground with a serious injury. She faced numerous physical challenges in her ninety-four years. But I witnessed a woman who lived her life with great style right up to the edge of those limits.
Challenges are good for us. Athletes push themselves to achieve greatness. Musicians test their technical skills to improve and expand their repertoire. Students reach for their dreams and often surprise themselves with their accomplishments.
We should challenge ourselves, our children, our employees to do better, be better. Attempt what they think they can’t but you are sure they can. The “I knew you could do it!” times that bear out our confidence in their ability.
The downside of this “limit pushing” is physical injury, burnout, mental collapse. It’s important for us as leaders to recognize this danger in our own lives. When the cost of pushing against those limits is greater than the value we are trying to achieve, we need to make the best of whatever reality we’re facing. Knowing when to shift from pushing against our limits to a healthy acknowledgement of those boundaries isn’t always apparent. It takes insight and especially prayer.
It’s one thing to strive against our own limits. But when we are in a leadership role, responsible for results, getting the most from our team, our employees, our students, our family, we need an even greater understanding of when to push. We need to recognize their ability and energy limits. Hopefully, when we see them through the eyes of our Lord Jesus, we will recognize the signs of distress before we ask too much of them. Otherwise, without knowing enough about someone’s history or resilience, our encouragement can tip into the realm of cruelty.
As leaders, we all have been tested to our limits by those who are determined to create issues. The Lord understands this. He has His limits too. Of course His power and strength have no limits. On the other hand, His patience isn’t limitless, especially when it comes to those who test Him with their rebellious ways. Even so, just as the Lord is “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6), we too should temper our reactions to those who test us.
Our Lord Jesus shows us His patience when it comes to our salvation, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This is when He sets no limits. No limits to His love or grace or forgiveness.
And neither should we set limits when it comes to extending that same patience, love, grace, and forgiveness to those He places in our lives, especially those who feel so limited in their options, their choices, their opportunities. Especially those who feel pressed to their limits.
Rather than adding to their stress, we instead have the wonderful privilege as His children to share with them the unlimited, “boundless riches” (Ephesians 3:8) of walking with our Lord Jesus and the limitless joy it brings.
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