Living within Limits

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the First Colony Church of Christ.

I was preparing for a class that I was scheduled to teach at a conference in one week. In terms of preparation, I was down to the wire. I was at home with my youngest child and anxiously wishing the minutes away until the clock reached 12:00. I knew at this time that I would have three glorious hours of uninterrupted time. This was the time when he napped. And today I was counting on those hours as if my life depended on it. I needed God to speak to me and lead me to put the final touches on my class notes.

12:00 finally arrives and I welcome it like the prodigal son. I rush the baby upstairs to bed and then take ten rushed minutes to eat lunch, make coffee, pick up the dirty laundry spread across the bedroom floor so I can reach my desk, and sit down to listen and write. Just as I am getting into a good groove about 20 minutes in, I hear the baby crying.

Oh no! He’s waking up, I think to myself. I start freaking out. This is my last day to work on this class, I remind myself. What I am going to do? I feel anger rising in my throat, and it is directed at my baby. What a little brat. He knows I am working on this class. He knows I need this time with God. And he is doing this on purpose. He can just sit up there and figure it out.

After two minutes of listening to his cry, I decide to go upstairs and attempt to rock him back to sleep. It’s worth a try.

I stomp angrily upstairs. When I get to his crib I see that his little cheeks are puffy and stained from tears. I left him for two minutes, keep in mind. But his eyes are red and puffy. There is snot dripping from his nose. His face is distraught with a “how dare you leave me up here; please pick me up” look. But he is so tired. I remove him from his crib and wrap him in a blanket (that he has thrown on the floor in his rage). He immediately wraps his tiny arms around my neck and lays his head on my shoulder. I softly whisper in his ear, “It’s not time to wake up, baby boy.” I wipe his nose on my t-shirt and sit down in the rocker. He gets his thumb settled in his mouth and the sobs begin to subside.

hm, hm, hm

I rock and rock and rock until he is very soon asleep on my shoulder. And we are together, chest on chest. As I inhale, he inhales. As I exhale, he exhales. We are breath on breath, heart to heart. Bodies molded together. And I realize, this is just where he wants to be.

And as I drift off to sleep with him in my arms I hear the still small voice of God say to me, “This little one. This is where I want to be with you. Would you cry out to me for no other reason than this?”

And in that moment, from a place deep in my soul, I said yes.

This image is one that represents my spiritual journey over the past couple of years. My spiritual journey has been one where disappointment with what was supposed to be has made room for to a peaceful acceptance of what is.

My spiritual journey has been one where “quiet time” is less about silence and solitude and more about a sleeping baby breathing on a mama’s chest.

Ruth Haley Barton puts it like this: “The good news is that there is something deeply spiritual about living and working within God-ordained limits–or to put it another way, living fully and acceptingly within our own set of realities.” Barton calls it the spiritual practice of “living within limits.” This kind of living honors the fact that God placed me here in this place and time and for this place and time.

Consider a few examples of living within limits.

God has given me this family with young children.

God has given me this community.

God has given me this personality.

And instead of banging my head up against this reality as a brick wall, I can lovingly embrace it as a gift.

What limit might God be calling you to accept today? It may just be the means by which you come to know God in greater ways.

After more than a decade spent ministering to students and families in domestic and international contexts, Kelly Edmiston has developed a passion to equip the church for works of ministry. Kelly, originally from Abilene, Texas, is currently the student and family minister at the First Colony Church of Christ in Sugar Land, Texas. Kelly is a frequent retreat speaker, Bible teacher, and writer. Her writing has been featured on Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed” and Sean Palmer’s “The Palmer Perspective.” She will soon complete a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Her areas of interest are liberation theology, practical theology, and spiritual formation. Kelly and her husband Ben enjoy “suburban life” with their three children.

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Author:  Publish Date: January 30, 2017

1 Comment

  • Laura Callarman says:

    Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing this. Reminds me a lot of my own experiences (given some articulation here: http://char.is/blog/2015/08/11/finding-who-we-truly-are/). I know that this wasn’t necessarily the primary emphasis of your post, but we do need more of these kinds of reflections on ministry and motherhood. As a female minister, I need it, so that I’m encouraged that I’m not the only one struggling to make it. And the church desperately needs it too so that the experience is seen and understood and normalized and appreciated. So thank you for voicing your experience of something that makes your ministry so unique to you as a mother and a woman!

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @ acu.edu.

2017-18 CHARIS Editorial Board:
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