Limits

It’s been a while since my last post.  I decided to take a week off from my website for Thanksgiving.  This past weekend, I had a wonderful getaway with my lovely wife at the Parish Hermitage – and writing or working on my website was not remotely on my mind.  However, there is another reason for my online absense that is much less admirable than taking vacation time, and much less exciting than a weekend romantic getaway: my back is killing me.  And this has inspired today’s article.  I share it from my own painful experience.  But because I hope my growth will benefit you in some real way, I’ll share with you a glimpse into my recent journey.

I have had chronic low back problems for about four years.  Each time it flares up it is a direct result of one of two problems: stress or stupidity.  The initial injury was caused by a raging bout with stupidity.  I’ll not share that story at this time – maybe in a future post.  Since that time, most of my flare-ups have been due to stress – which will also make for a good future article.  This time, the stupidity got me.

The particular variety of stupidity that laid me out this time is refusing to acknowledge and respect my limits.  The simple fact is: my back does not belong to a 21 year old.  Those days passed me by over a decade ago.  And even for my age, my back is not what it would be if I had never injured it, despite the wonderful healing work provided by my chiropractor.  I hope I finally learned my lesson this time!  I just can’t do what I would like to do with my back.  I have to live within limits that I wish were not there.  But wishing doesn’t make them go away.  In fact, ignoring those limits leads to a lot of pain and suffering.

Sometimes I want to ignore my body’s limits out of pride.  I want to really look manly.  As if how much I can lift is a direct indication of my masculinity.  At other times, I am so focused on taking care of someone else that I don’t take good care of me.  Ironically, my resulting injury may create a much greater burden for that loved one than simply waiting for me to get help in the first place.  God has been teaching me that I cannot fully love and take care of others until I have first loved and cared for myself.  After all, Jesus said the second Great Command is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Another part of me keeps hoping if I pretend I don’t have limits, they will go away.  You can imagine how successful this approach has been.

But you know what does help?  Respecting my limits.  Sometimes this means saying, “No.”  Other times it means saying, “I need help,” or “I need to stop,” or “I’d better not,” or “I need some rest,” or “Maybe you could ask so-and-so.”  (That last one seems to hurt the most – I’m pretty sure that’s about pride.)  I’m growing, however.  And I’m learning that I don’t hurt as much when I respect my limits.  I can do more for myself and others when I do it within my limits.  Stopping myself voluntarily is so much better than my back stopping me painfully!  Respecting my limits also offers a new kind of help for others.  It sets a healthy example and says to other people, “We all have limits.  There is no shame in it.  It is just a part of the human condition.”  Shame only comes in when I stubbornly pretend to be something I’m not – and suffer the consequences of my own stupidity.

I’d better stop.  There’s no telling what I might write when this muscle relaxer really kicks in!  🙂

Learning – Roger

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