There is a point each person eventually reaches where they've run out of fancy decorations to camouflage the fact that there are limits past which they cannot operate, limits to what they can do or who they can become. This point of realization comes in many degrees, shapes and forms, but the imagery in my mind of this moment looks like a scene from the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” where the African bushman sets out on a quest to take the mysterious object that fell from the sky (a Coke bottle) to the end of the earth in order to ‘throw it off.’ After many days of travel, filled with peril and adventure, the little bushman comes to an enormous cliff, stretching out as far to the left and to the right as the eye can see. As he peers over the edge, he cannot see the bottom – he doesn’t expect to – after all, this is the end of the earth. Instead, he sees nothing but a thick and impenetrable mist down below the lip of the precipice. And so, having successfully come to the end of the earth, he tosses the Coke bottle off, turns around, and walks home.
Each of us has an inner limit, a cliff beyond which we can go no further in our abilities and our efforts; it’s just a matter of degree, a matter of when we realize it, and a matter of what we do, once we do.
Sometimes this point of realization comes as it relates to careers. The High School or College student who once had any number of life paths to choose from picks one, only to realize that the very act of choosing now automatically limits and narrows down all future choices. This can cause panic. I’m convinced that many of my college friends constantly changed their majors simply because choosing ‘just one’ began to feel like a constricting noose around their lives of endless possibility. We resist the implications of limits.
Sometimes this point of realization comes as it relates to abilities. I can immediately think of two distinct occasions in my life where this was the case. One took place at a privately owned sporting goods store where I worked part time while attending seminary. It was while working here that I seriously contemplated murder for the first time. Now understand, the man I worked under was Lucifer in the flesh. He was just wicked, in a bad way. But I was convinced I could love the man into God’s kingdom. About three months into this experiment I reached my inner limit of love, and believe me, if this man had been there with me, I’d have thrown him over the edge of the earth and kept the Coke bottle… because I had come to the end of myself and my own love. And I was suddenly faced with the shocking fact that where my love ran out, hate began. Not tolerance, forbearance or pity, but HATE. I now hated this man. That’s a hard thing to admit, that my love wasn’t enough; we resist the implications of limits.
Sometimes this point of realization comes as it relates to the “Big Picture.” If you start having too many of these close encounters of ‘the cliff kind’ in a short period of time, your brain can pull a Matrix on you, so that you feel as though your eyes are being forcibly opened for the first time to a limitless number of limits you’ve been hiding from yourself all along. The blinders come off, the reality of your weakness is exposed, and you recognize that the sidewalk of self-reliance ends at a cliff bordering a sea of impenetrable mist. If you’re NOT a Christian when this happens, It’s the perfect opportunity to take your trust off of yourself and place it instead in the limitless abilities of God. If you ARE a Christian when this happens, it’s the perfect opportunity to… take your trust back off yourself and place that trust back where it belongs: in the limitless abilities of God. But it’s never easy; because we resist the implications of limits.
What are the implications of limits? Mainly these: that we are not God, that we are not in control, and that we don't have the ability to live a truly fulfilled life on our own. The first step towards a solution? Admitting it.
What inner limits are you facing today? Have you come to the end of your strength? Have you arrived at the end of your wisdom? Have you reached the end of experience? Have you stumbled onto the end of self-motivation? Then listen to these words…
“Because God’s nature is infinite, everything that flows out of it is infinite also. We poor human creatures are constantly being frustrated by limitations imposed upon us from without and within… How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.” -- A.W. Tozer (46,47 The Knowledge of The Holy)
If you find yourself at the edge of an inner limitation today, don’t put the blindfold back on as if you ‘didn’t—see—anything.’ Instead, face your limits head on, take hold of your self-sufficiency and toss it over the edge… but don’t walk away. Because this is where a different movie-inspired mental image comes to mind, this time from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The scene from the movie goes like this:
After back-breaking work, harrowing adventure and life-threatening danger, Indiana Jones pushes through to one final test inside the ancient city of Petra, in order to retrieve a treasure of limitless possibility. Somewhere behind him, his father lays dying. His only hope for salvation? A drink from the cup of Christ, The Holy Grail. It is this that Indiana seeks to bring back, but first, he must pass a final test of faith.
Between him and the small chamber where the cup resides, he encounters a bottomless chasm. How can he get across to the cup of life? According to the clues he has, he must step out in faith and walk on air to the other side. In vain, he looks for another way across; surely this is madness?! Finally, in desperation and at the end of himself, he lets go of the limits of sight, closes his eyes, and takes a very large step – onto solid rock. As he puts his foot down, the camera angle suddenly shifts to reveal that there was a bridge of stone there all along, invisible by design only until you stepped out onto it. Indiana successfully brings back the Grail and his father is saved.
Whatever your limits, there’s a bridge made from the cornerstone that is Christ, spanning every mist-shrouded chasm. He’s a bridge to the limitless mercy, the limitless love and the limitless power of an Infinite God, and He waits for that first step. Cross over. Drink deeply. And live abundantly.