It’s really the lines on the tennis court that make the game.
I could walk onto the court with frustration and resentment that I have to play by the rules and keep the ball within the lines. But, I doubt that would make for a very successful match! On the other hand, if I accept that the lines are really the whole point of the game – what makes it challenging and fun – I can unleash my creativity and focus to play the game inside the lines.
So it is with the human condition. There are lines. Boundaries. Limits. Constraints.
Yet, so often, we rail against the very things that make us human. We fight our need to rest. We’re angry that death is inevitable and work as hard as we can to stave off its approach. We shame ourselves and others for mistakes. We’re resentful of our financial, intellectual, and physical constraints. We don’t even like being limited to a certain number of calories each day!
But that resistance to the constraints of our humanity actually robs us of the focus and clarity we need to live out our God-given vocation. When we fixate on the lines, we’re paralyzed. Surrendering to the God who gives these constraints enables us to see them not as impediments, but as a way for God to show His work in our lives.
In my vocation as a physician, I learned early on the constraint of my own fallibility. As a young dermatologist in training, I saw a patient who came to the office concerned about a rash on her cheeks. I diagnosed the rash and presented my recommendations to the attending physician. What a shock when he said, ‘Yes, but what about the skin cancer in the middle of her forehead?’
What happens if a physician fights the reality of her own fallibility? Responding to that constraint with pride and insecurity, she’s unable to admit when she’s made a mistake, know when to ask for advice, or research other solutions. That’s how the dangerous “God-complex” of many physicians emerges. What’s the alternative? A good physician holds the tension of confidence and humility, accepting her own fallibility. She has confidence in her training and experience that emboldens her to make treatment decisions, along with the humility to listen to her patient, ask questions, seek advice, continue to learn. She knows where the lines are painted, and that makes her a better doctor.
We follow the one who embodied this perfectly. God incarnate surrendered infinite energy and strength to live in a body that grew tired and hungry. He left an eternal home to live in space and time. He accepted the powerlessness of the cross in place of supreme power. Jesus surrendered to the constraints of humanity and lived perfectly within the lines. As we are empowered by him, we can accept the constraints of our lives rather than viewing them as impediments, unleashing the joy and creativity that makes life beautiful. Playing life inside the lines – what a fun game that will be!
What constraints do you resist? How can you reframe your perspective so that you see them not as impediments, but as opportunities to see God at work?