Expand your life by recognizing God’s limits
“So what are you going to do?” the old man asked me.
I straightened up from the row I was hoeing and wiped the sweat from my brow. I had come to him for advice on a major life decision, as I had many times before. As always, he had put me to work in the garden while we talked about it.
“I dunno,” I sighed. “I guess I’ll wait for God to give me direction.”
He smiled mischievously. “You seem to do that a lot.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I said defensively. “Don’t you believe He guides us?”
“I know He does,” he affirmed. “I also know that too often we use Him as a crutch, not a guide. We sit around waiting for direction from Him, and when it doesn’t come we don’t take action. Then we say fool-headed things like, ‘I guess it wasn’t meant to be.’ Many times, His guidance comes in the form of no guidance. He can’t do everything, you know.”
“What do you mean God can’t do everything?” I spluttered. “Of course He can! There is no limit to his power. There’s nothing He can’t do. And to suggest otherwise is downright blasphemous.”
He said nothing and turned back to his pruning work. Used to his ways, I waited patiently.
A few minutes passed before he said, as he continued pruning,
“Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds;
You cannot do that when you are flying words.
Thoughts unexpressed may fall back dead
But God Himself can’t stop them once they’re said.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s from a poem by Will Carleton. ‘The First Settler’s Story.’ I read that line when I was about your age and it’s always stuck with me. I’ve pondered it over the years.
“Like you, I used to believe and say, without really thinking through it, God can do everything.’ So that line jumped out at me. ‘God Himself can’t stop them.’ Will was being very specific in his poem, but it made me think of all the things God can’t do.”
“For example?” I asked.
“Oh, plenty of things. He can’t force you to be good and make the right choices. He can’t make you grow if you are unwilling to grow. He can’t force you to take healthy risks that get you out of your comfort zone and into your purpose zone. He can’t take back the choices you’ve already made, nor can he take away the natural consequences of your choices.”
He stopped pruning and looked at me. “You’ll find, son, that when you pay attention to God’s limits, your life starts expanding. When you understand what He can’t do, you’re more conscious of what you must do.”
He began pruning again and let me sit with his words. He whistled a tune as I pondered.
Suddenly, something clicked for me. “You know Russ down the road?” I asked.
“Every time we visit him he’s complaining about something. And then he just sits around watching TV all day. I’ve always thought it was funny how he always asks us to pray for him and his troubles. He asks us to pray for rain but he never puts sprinklers out on his fields. Is that what you’re talking about?”
He nodded, a twinkle in his eye.
We continued working in silence for another fifteen minutes.
Then, he asked, “So do you know what you’re going to do yet?”
“I thought so,” he said with a grin, as he started pruning and whistling again.