Thank God for limitations. Not yours, and not limitations in general—just mine. If some things didn’t hold me back, I’d be a pretty terrible person.
I tend toward grandiosity and self-importance, so thank God my imperfections show up everywhere. For example, my writing is okay, but I’m disabled when it comes to drawing. I have trouble with things like circles and straight lines. If I could write and draw, I’d be an insufferable ar-teest. I’d run around pontificating about creativity and art all the time.
I’m charming and funny, but I have a temper. I calm down and apologize quickly, but that doesn’t help when my short fuse blows and the relationship explodes. My temper gets me into stupid kinds of trouble, the kind that most people avoid easily. Out at a club with some buddies a few years ago, I returned from the bathroom to find a strange guy occupying my seat. I politely explained that it was my chair and asked if I could sit down. He didn’t budge. Most people would have asked him again to move, perhaps even more politely. Not me. I started shouting things I don’t feel comfortable writing down here. Dude stands up, and he’s almost a foot taller than I am. I’m alive today only because my friends intervened and offered to buy Paul Bunyan a drink.
I’m a decent-looking guy, but I gain weight just by thinking about french fries. I fought this cumbersome predisposition for years with the exercise regimen of an Olympic athlete. Then the demands of middle age—family, career, back problems, high-definition television—put the kibosh on my fifty-mile-per-week running schedule. People used to tell me I looked like Tom Cruise. I got Will friggin’ Ferrell the other day. So much for trading on my looks.
I’m smart, but I get distracted too easily and miss important details. My potential for intellectual arrogance far exceeds my other grandiose tendencies, so it’s a good thing I make mistakes that keep me humble. Just last week, I made a paperwork error that jeopardized the professional futures of four of my graduate students. After a lot of time and energy and a sleepless night or two, I figured out a way to repair my screw-up. Brain farts like this make it impossible for me to believe that I’m some kind of genius.
Without all these limitations, I’d feel a little too smart and a little too cool. My dependence on God and others wouldn’t be so obvious. So I’m thankful for my limitations more than I am for my gifts. The gifts of others, however, get me singing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
I get by on the strengths of the people around me. My wife shoulders most of this burden. Though she balks if people call her an artist, she’s the one who teaches our kids how to draw and make beautiful things. She’s also so detail-oriented, it makes my head spin. She catches mistakes in paperwork, for example, that save us hours of work and, sometimes, lots of money. And unlike me, she has the patience of a lion huntress waiting for hours in the underbrush until the perfect time to make the kill. Well, maybe that’s not the best analogy, but you get my point. The woman makes me look like a Chihuahua on Red Bull by comparison.
My friends Mark and Ryan keep my impulsivity in check with their patience and restraint. They’re the ones who saved me thousands in dental work and legal fees when I mouthed off to the yeti who swiped my seat in the bar. God had plans when he made those guys two of my best friends. They don’t approach problems in the wrecking-ball fashion in which I do. They help me to stop and think, to wait and see. It’s unsettling to imagine the mistakes I might have made if God hadn’t put these guys in my life.
These are just three of the people who help me survive. I praise God for their gifts and for my limitations that make me need their gifts. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re all imperfect: so we need each other. If we were all flawless, we might become too self-sufficient. If God made us for relationships, maybe he added safeguards to ensure that we need other people. Maybe that’s why I’m impulsive, distractible, and graphically challenged and have a hard time hitting the right BMI for my height. Thank God for that.
Once in a while, I pull my head out of my keister and realize that my gifts help other people. That’s when I enjoy them most. I use my gifts for me most of the time, but sometimes I remember that God gives us gifts and limitations so that we can carry each other. The temptation to stand alone is usually fleeting, vanishing in the wind of our weakness. So, yeah, I’m thankful for the many gifts God has given me. I’m just more thankful for the limitations that keep me from spoiling them.