Limits & Boundaries


My body reached its limit after only three hours of work. Normally there is an ability to push through, pull up my boot straps, and make it through the day. I can collapse into bed once home, but at least the nursing team was left intact and the job was completed. But not this day.

My body started to fail at the very start of my shift, and continued to do so until I was seeing stars and my joints were aching. To continue would have been hell for me and also risky for my patients; I had reached a point where I could either do my job much too slowly, or do it at a normal pace running the risk of making an error.

In the midst of this, I wrestled to make the decision, even though my mind already knew what was necessary. The need to please others by staying at work tugged against the need to take care of myself. There is so much that can be unpacked there, in that faulty thought process (and trust me, my unhealthy need to please others has been a frequent and recurrent topic in my prayer journals). But for the moment, I want to pause on the limitations I was experiencing. The limitations of being momentarily sick got me thinking about the limitations of being human.

Mental, physical, emotional and spiritual limits. We all have breaking points, each of us with varying thresholds. Then there’s the broad, all-encompassing limitations that can be observed simply by living on this earth. Physical barriers like canyons and oceans, spacial barriers, time constraints. No matter who you are, where you live, or what you do there are only twenty-four hours in a day.

Despite the vast majority of limits and boundaries found in everyday life, I have become accustomed to viewing these limitations as negative barriers. It could, in part, be due to my human nature of wanting more [of everything all the time]. It could also be the pressure of society, especially heightened in Southern California. We may recognize some boundaries, but even then we’re always pushing to fit more activities, more work, more possessions, more things to do.

Could limitations instead be a blessing? A protection from complete and total burnout. A red sign warning us of impending danger, of a breakdown in our wiring due to system overload.

Because of limitations, rest and rejuvenation are possible. Maybe [definitely] God knew what He was doing when He made twenty-four hours in a day and built us to require uninterrupted sleep at night. I am reminded of my humanity. I am reminded of my need for God. He blessed me with time to rest and a gentle nudge, drawing me near to Him when I needed it most.

My quiet time was different this week. It wasn’t extravagant or super-spiritual. It was comfortable, close, and humbling.

He reminded me of my need for Him. He reminded me of His all-fulfilling love for me, and my worth in Him. He reminded me that because of His love for me, I also need to love me. He reminded me that in loving myself, I then have a healthy part of myself to give others as I continue on this path of nursing.

So even when I’m recovering from a weird flu and not feeling 100%, I know that He is restoring me so that I can confidently go back into the hospital to help restore others.

“In fact how can we affirm other people’s unique identities when we don’t affirm our own? Can we really love our neighbors well without loving ourselves?” – Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality


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