“Much of the beauty that arrises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium.” (Henri Matisse)
When the nearly uncontrollable urge to create something new in my space hits me, (as it does every few months…or weeks) I often like to challenge myself to only use what I have. Like everyone, I can succumb to the craving for more stuff, things I don’t actually need at all. One of the ways I combat that is to force myself not to buy anything when I get the itch to rearrange. It is both frustrating and thrilling to have work and rework things until it’s just right. Most of the time I walk away more satisfied than if I had bought something new. It happened just last night with my office space and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. My limitations have the potential to make room for more creativity if I let them. In many ways, confines are where the an artist can find the most inspiration. I never thought of limitations as a gift until a few days ago. I started thinking that maybe the things we feel limit us are actually where our lives and art can be the most authentic and beautiful.
I read this excerpt from A Million Little Ways, my current and favorite read recently, and it just made everything click: “Our limits can be gifts if we let them be. They might show up like failure, season of life, fatigue, disability, grief, burnout. But the limits tell us important things about ourselves. They help us draw lines for margin. They pave the way for vulnerability. They sometimes show us what our passion isn’t. And that can be just as important as knowing what it is. In some cases, our limitations can actually become our inspiration…Befriend narrow limits. Let them be a reminder to you that your work and your art are impossible without divine resources. You can do nothing on your won anyway. Be relieved to shop up with all of your love as well as your ins unity, your skill as well as your fear. Show up in the world and be who you already are. Show up human. Show up authentic. Show up right where you are…”
When I first became pregnant with Eleanora my heart often wondered how having a baby was going to change my business. Will it limit me? Will I still want to work? Will I lose myself, who I was? The answer to those questions turned out to be yes. But that yes turned out differently than I thought. Through the journey of becoming a mother, God has and still is teaching me the gift of limitations. I just didn’t realize it until now. Elle is a gift, undoubtably. She is a treasure just because she is her own unique person that we are entrusted to love and raise. The gift I didn’t expect ended up being the same things I feared. Since Elle was born I have less time, less energy, less clarity of mind, less freedom. I also have more complications, more responsibility, more clutter, more noise, etc…I expected all those things, but what I didn’t see coming was how God was going to give me more trust, more purpose and less doubt and less wasted time. What I thought was going to limit me, well it did, but it also opened me up to a whole new world of beauty and passion. Now I have a new kind of passion for my art and so much more clarity in my heart for what that looks like. I’m embolden to live it out in a greater fullness. God’s grace is amazing. Looking back now, I see how all these things empty me. I have an undeniably adorable and constant reminder that I am not self-sufficient. I need God, every minute of the day! When I view my new life, my new person as a beautiful gift it opens me up to blessings I might have missed. In having less time I have learned to be more efficient. Less clarity and has made me more focused when I need to be. Less freedom made for more saying “yes” to the important things and “no” to the rest. I did lose myself, but I lost a lot of things I needed to let go of anyway.
It was foolish of me to doubt that God couldn’t still use me within the confines of my limitations. If He calls us to do something, He will equip us. I have no doubt that I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do with my life right now. Am I doing it perfectly or to the degree of fullness that He has for me? No, but I’m growing. It is just like me, fully human, not to be able to see what He has ahead. It’s funny to me now that my finite mind wondered how it was all going to work out. My fatigue and seemingly infinite lack is met by His immense power and overwhelming grace. He put the limits in place to show that His strength perfect in weakness. Of course, Elle is just one of the myriad of limitations in my life. Most of them aren’t nearly as sweet and beautiful as her though!
Paul states it perfectly in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
I don’t know where you are friends, but I hope these thoughts encourage you as they did for me. Jesus accepted the ultimate limitation of existing in human flesh…and He conquered death. I think He can teach me how to find even more beauty within the boundaries He’s given me. I don’t know about you, but that takes a huge weight off my shoulders. Instead of worrying how things are going to ever work out, we can lean on Him and trust that He is the author of our lives. He knows what He’s doing by allowing our limitations. Maybe He just wants to rearrange our lives, like I did my office, to create something more beautiful than before. Often I don’t feel ready or equipped for what is in front of me. But I can rest in the fact that my limitations don’t limit Him. Anything that helps me see more of God and trust Him more deeply, is certainly a gift.