But what about our limits? Aren’t we supposed to have boundaries? We can’t just stretch and stretch and give and give. Eventually we break. Yes, there are limits to each of us. As we develop and grow, our capabilities (or limits), change. Our physical limits may be different than our emotional or mental limits.
I would argue that Grace, itself, has no limits. There is no situation or person beyond reach. However, they may be beyond our personal reach. Just as a ladder – wonderful as it may be – can stretch and contort, (see Ladders and Grace, parts 1 & 2) there is a limit to the span it can reach. A different ladder could perhaps span a farther distance. So, it is with us. We are tools in the service of Grace. There are some tasks we are physically unable to do. There are some people we are emotionally unable to reach. Does this make us worthless? No way! A different tool, or person, is called for in this situation.
That given, I would also argue that each of us has a limited view of our actual capacities. We are not accustomed to stretching or moving certain hinges, so we believe that we cannot. In actual fact, we could stretch the distance, we have just never extended that joint of ourselves before and so believe it impossible. To develop the confidence in our flexibility, we are given small “practice” extensions until we can easily extend to our full length. Ideally this happens as we grow up, in a controlled and supportive environment. Unfortunately, all too often, in our world this doesn’t happen. There are many people who are like folded up ladders that have rusted in place or have broken hinges from trying to bend in a way they could not.
Part of grace is extending to each other the encouragement and opportunities to actually unfold the unused hinges of our lives. If we all looked for ways to sharpen and shape each other’s tools, our own tools would be stretched and used. Grace is not trying to become the only tool in the toolshed, but the best tool that we actually are. When there is a shed full of excellent tools, no task or project is beyond accomplishment.
Perhaps you feel I am stretching the imagery here. Granted, every analogy breaks down somewhere. However, I’d love to know what you think about grace. Every day grace toward each other. And even mind-stretching grace. Is extending grace a one-man show? (a one tool job?) Is the finished product made better by using multiple tools? What are examples of projects that only require one tool (you)? What are some examples of jobs too big for your ability to stretch? Could you be part of accomplishing that job if there were others lending themselves to the task? How do we determine our own (true) limits? How do we find others who help us reach what we alone cannot?