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Despite my best efforts, nothing happened. I ran. I jumped.

I even flapped my
arms. Nothing. No matter how hard I tried, I failed. After dreaming again and
again and again that I could fly, I almost convinced myself it was possible.
Sitting in church, I’d visualize myself hovering above the room, encircling the
congregation and soaring up into the sky. Then the sermon would end, and I would
realize that I was the one preaching!

A couple weeks ago while sitting in a large hall at a business conference in


Chicago, I gazed up at the ornate ceiling. The old sense of flying returned. Ah,
this looked like the perfect room to let my imagination soar. Suddenly my mind
flashed with light and I discovered this profound insight: I cannot fly.

No matter how hard I wish, no matter how hard I flap my arms, this body is not
going to start floating. Catching my breath from this overwhelming illumination, I
wondered where does this desire to fly come from? While there are many reasons why
other people and myself dream of flying, one reason stands out in the moment: the
desire to fly can sometimes be a desire to escape the limits of the material
world.

The gift of this physical world comes with a variety of limitations. We cannot
stare at the sun. We cannot breathe underwater. We cannot walk through walls. We
cannot fly. By virtue of affirming the realness of the world around me, I must
accept the limits of this same wondrous world. Limitations play an essential part
in the game of life.

Each of us walks through life with a variety of particular limitations such as


race, heredity, age, height, eye color and more. There are limitations by virtue
of our birth, limitations due to natural laws and limitations that are imposed on
us by others or even ourselves.

If I turn right at the stop sign, I cannot turn left at the same time. By turning
right, I limit myself to the world on the right hand side. Every decision is a
confinement, a limitation that I impose.

Limitations can also be imposed upon me. Education, finances, health, family and
other factors may all limit the choices readily available to me in life. Sure we
may exalt the few who seem to break through these limits but most of us do not. We
live in the midst of certain constraints we will never overcome.

Most of us will never be billionaires with the freedom to jet about the world at
our hearts desire. We will work regular jobs, raise families and learn to carve
out a life without the excesses of unlimited income.

Most of us will never rule nations or even cities for the matter. We may hold
certain levels of responsibility within our work, our church and our communities,
but we will not shape world events. Like the unnamed masses throughout history, we
simply live and eventually die, making a small ripple upon a tiny pool that soon
fades.

This may sound negative. In fact, limitations seem negative. They seem like a
denial. So we can easily focus on the limitations in our own lives and suddenly
dream of flying. For example, instead of accepting the limitations of our own
particular finances, it is easy to continuously wish for more money. Or worse yet,
to act as though we have more money by incurring debts that are beyond our ability
to pay.

Our limitations may drive us to wishing. We may wish to live in another time
period. We may wish to live in another part of the world. We may wish to have
different parents, different relatives or different skin color. We may wish for a
different life: any life but our own. We may also regret: regret the choices we
didn’t make, the person we didn’t marry, the job we never had, the house we never
built, the life we never lived.

Or, we might just learn to revel in the limitations of our particularity. While
there may be a time for “breaking out of the box,” there is also a time to be
grateful for our particular box. This tension between pressing up against my
limitations and accepting my limitations may not be an obstacle to fulfillment but
may actually be the specific point where the wonder of God’s grace manifests in my
life.

Looking back over the last 25 years, I realize that being diagnosed in High School
with chronic kidney disease provided a limitation that shaped the person I became.
In the midst of the challenges, I learned gratitude and wonder and delight in each
waking moment. Sure I could have read that in a book, but that would not make the
idea a core part of me.

While we read good ideas and hear good teachings, it is in the arena of living our
lives with our particular constraints that we become whom we are. We are not all
created equal. We are all created particular. The Creator formed each of us
uniquely. We may curse these unique qualities that define us who we are or we may
celebrate them.

In this act of celebration, we express gratitude for the gift of our particular
life. And at this point, we might just realize the defining limitation in our
life: we are not God. Those who do rule the world, those who do become rich and
famous and those who are recorded in the history books are still not God. The
distance between the Creator and the creature is not measurable and cannot be
overcome.

If we are not God, then we are dependent. Life is a gift. Breath is a gift. Our
particularities are gifts. Instead of wishing for other gifts, we might celebrate
the gifts already given. We might learn to live within the constraints. We might
discover the creative wonder at our disposal right this moment.

The limitation of gravity combined with the design of the human body means that we
cannot fly. In the midst of this insurmountable obstacle something new emerged:
humans discovered the possibility of creating machines that do fly. And in fact,
after my conference in Chicago was complete, I boarded an airplane and flew home.

As I reflect on the wonder of that flight home, I pause and give thanks to God,
anticipating the other wonders He is revealing in and through the limitations in
my life and the lives of those around me.