Accepting our Limitations

Reflection by Joshua Elzner

“There is a beautiful reality which one discovers through growing in the childlike spontaneity of love, through being enfolded ever more deeply and consciously in the dimension of gift. This is, namely, the truth that holiness does not consist in surpassing our own limitations, either as a creature or as an individual, but rather in accepting them and coming to live joyfully within them. It could be said that the only limitation which we need to fight to overcome is the narrowness of our own sin, which blinds our perspective, isolates us within ourselves in possessiveness, pride, and fear, and draws us to dominate and abuse others and creation. But this sin is precisely a distortion of our creaturehood, not an essential part of it; it is the false effort to be bigger than we truly are, or to be something altogether different. Sanctity, in the last analysis, consists in simply being able to truly be a human being—indeed, more, in being oneself in the eyes of God.

“Precisely by wanting to “be like God” in a false way which went against their creaturely limitation and dependence upon God, Adam and Eve found their nature corrupted and broken. For us, therefore, returning to dependency upon the Father and trustingly accepting our littleness and our limitation is at the heart of our healing from sin, our rediscovery of the happiness of being beloved children. This is the happiness for which God made us.

“It is fear and pride which impel us to strive to be something that we are not, to fashion an “ideal” in our minds toward which we strive. Anyone who has taken a big step in life, whether in embracing a new vocation or a new job or a new way of living, has experienced the human tendency to “imagine” oneself in the new state. Certain ideas crystallize in our minds and we tend to act in a way so as to fashion ourselves according to these ideas. Because of this we can tend to become blind to the actual responsibilities incumbent upon us in our state, to the actual invitation of God that is coming to us in prayer and in the circumstances of our lives. Above all, we lose sight of the gift that each day and each new moment is meant to be for us. Further, we can experience a kind of “self-alienation” when we do not live up to our ideal, and consequently we feel like a failure. We say to ourselves: “This is who I was meant to be, but I am too weak, too broken to live up to it. Now God must truly be frustrated with me, at least as frustrated as I am with myself.”

“This kind of experience of humiliation can be healing, however, for it teaches us not to rely so much upon our own ideas or imagination. Rather, God’s grace seeks to penetrate into this experience of weakness and failure, and to awaken in us something much more pure and profound. We learn to see ourselves, not according to our own limited ideals, which are always more or less impersonal, but as God himself sees us. Then we realize that he loves us just as we are, here and now. He sees and loves in us the deepest and truest personal mystery that is our own. Who we really are is precisely who we are in God’s eyes. And there is nothing in the least impersonal or general about the way that he loves us, nor about the invitation that his love begets in our hearts to become free through responding to this love. He invites us to become, so to speak, “more than we are,” not by becoming someone else, or by living up to an abstract ideal, but by allowing the truth that he has already implanted within us to blossom from within and to express itself outwardly, to come to full maturity.

“The encounter with God’s love in the midst of our own weakness and poverty goes still deeper than this. Ultimately it can lead us to simply entrusting our own limitations, our own brokenness, hopes, desires, and fears, into the hands of the One whom we know loves us—and leaving them there. This is true surrender. Rather than needing to control and fashion our own lives, our own growth, our own sanctity, we simply leave it in the hands of the Father. On our part, all that is ultimately necessary is to receive each new day as he gives it, each moment as it flows from his loving hands, and to respond to it with all of our heart. In his will, indeed, is our peace. If we simply surrender to him and obey him in childlike trust and simplicity, he will, truly, take care of the rest.”

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