It seems every conversation I have with people these days comes down to the theme of limitation. Each one of us, in our own unique way, is experiencing limitations that hinder us and withhold from us certain aspects of the life we knew only eight short months ago.
Limitation defines so much for us right now: we weave our lives around the COVID rules and restrictions of whatever area we live in. We either abide by or resist those rules and regulations, but we’re aware of them nonetheless – building our lives around what we can or can’t do.
Limitation is our current reality. It’s the terrain we must dwell in to keep others and ourselves safe and healthy.
And in that limitation also resides much grief, frustration, anxiety, and helplessness.
Where we used to plan and dream far into the future, this limitation freezes us in a timelessness – forces us to stay put within our homes, our routines, our locale, for an undetermined amount of time.
Where we would have traveled and explored and adventured, we can only cast our mind’s eye to past memories, or turn to images on screens to transport us elsewhere.
Where we would have broken up our days and weeks and months with gatherings large and small, enjoyed blissful moments of witnessing or performing the arts, and taken in festivals or once-in-a-lifetime events, we can only stay within the scope of our mundane daily rhythms.
Where we once extended ourselves into our busy schedules, expending our energies for a multitude of activities and projects and causes, we now struggle to find ways to contribute meaningfully to the world.
I read the story of Mary being visited by the angel in Luke 1 with different ears, from this context of limitation in which we reside.
Two women, both in situations where it should be impossible for new life to grow within them. Two women whose limitations seem obvious.
And yet, the angel says: with God, all things are possible. God announces that new life will spring forth where none should be able to. Limitations no longer claim hold on these women’s lives.
Caught as we are in our own webs of limitation, how freeing it is to imagine God cutting through all that to release us: to bring new life and all it entails – hope, potential, change, dreams.
Could it be that God can break through our confines even without some dramatic reversal of events – without a vaccine, without a cure – and bring forth life in and through our limitations?
Perhaps there is boundlessness within our limitation. A vast world within our boundaries, which we are perfectly free to enjoy.
I consider some of the things that fill my life now that I never had time for or interest in before.
Gardening, for one.
My body eagerly spends hours digging, hauling, mixing, planting, when I wouldn’t have had a clue about it months ago.
Within the confines of my daily existence, I looked out the back of my house and slowly began to envision something new out of what was right before my eyes. I saw flowering bushes and a multitude of bulbs bursting forth with color in spring. I saw climbers and rambling roses. I saw arches and stone paths. I saw shows of color that shifted at varying times of day and season. I saw vegetables and herbs to nourish my family.
And I quickly caught on to the fact that the possibilities are endless.
I have a world to explore, and I haven’t even left my home (except to go to the garden store, which is my new favorite destination).
Boundlessness within limitation. The possibility of new life where there seemed to be none before. The ability to plan and dream and envision something new. A way to plant hope for the future.
Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – we can glimpse that unfettered freedom within our confines.
God breaks through and finds a way to bring new life, even where it seems impossible.
May it be so for you.