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The Invitation of Limits

We can view limitations as annoyances … or invitations, as Ashley Hales helps us today.


The Invitation of Limits

By Ashley Hales

After 17 months of virtual school and homeschooling, now my children are all at school. While the quiet in the house in the middle of the day feels foreign and exhilarating, there is a collective sense of anxiety that we all have buzzing under the surface. Will this last? Will my children come home to learn again? And bigger still: Will we, and they, be safe?

News outlets have called 2020 a year of collective trauma. And we don’t easily get back to some kind of “normal” without waves of remembering, without a sense that everything has changed. We might try to bypass that with Netflix binging, or social media scrolling, or treating ourselves to sugary treats. But our bodies remember the fear, the unknowing, of the last year and a half.

We discovered we were limited. Of course, we knew it, but we didn’t really believe it before. We had an outwardly stretching rosy ideal of what life would look like — success at work, kind and competent children, good friends, vacations.

We’ve always been limited because we’ve always been human. And we’ve also been fed a Western ideal that we need to keep working harder to prove our worth.

Last year reminded me of my own crash course in limitations: becoming a parent. We had four children in quick succession, each with their own needs and me with just two hands to try to meet them all.

I have to admit that those early years of mothering weren’t always pretty. I pushed against my limits and would often retreat to blame or shame when I just couldn’t meet everyone’s needs. The problem wasn’t that I was limited and that I couldn’t meet my children’s needs simultaneously. I didn’t need a new parenting hack or a new plan for making dinner; the issue was deeper.

The problem was I hadn’t seen my limits as an invitation. My sudden constraints of new motherhood weren’t to be kicked against, but rather an invitation into the good life I said I wanted. A life of rich meaning, simple wants, a connection to community and place, and a God who would walk with me right through the sleep deprivation, uncertainty about my calling, and questions about what to make for dinner. The good life seems to usually come this way, through a forging and pruning process. It comes through a letting go of what I thought I wanted, and following God’s story — the one that didn’t go up and to the right, but went down, into the desert.

This disorientation isn’t abandonment. It is love. We’re faced with a question: will we walk into disorientation, learning the lessons of less, or will we acquiesce to only just so much from the hand of God?

Now, years later, while a pandemic still rages and there is war-torn suffering, will we begin to ask better questions: Will we name our limits? Will we see them not as barriers to doing it all or having it all, but as invitations to be human?

You are human. You cannot do it all. You were never meant to. That is the invitation of your limits: to find a deeper source of identity, meaning, and worth apart from what you do and even apart from yourself. There is a bigger story and your limits are the doorway to a more spacious life.

Ashley Hales is a writer, speaker, and hosts the Finding Holy Podcast. She’s married to a pastor and mom to 4 school-aged kids. Her most recent book is A Spacious Life: Trading Hustle and Hurry for the Goodness of Limits. Connect at her website or on social media at @aahales. Take your Hustle Habit quiz and get a one-page roadmap for your type at


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