As I grow older, I'm much more aware of my limits. At a recent confirmation lock-in, I realized that there's a limit to how much sleep I can get before my performance as a leader suffers. When I workout, there's a limit to the distance I can run, the time that I can ride, or the amount that I can lift. As a pastor, there's an appropriate limit of how much personal information I share with anyone in the community.
Acknowledging and respecting limits is a healthy practice. Limits help to keep relationships safe, to pave the way for a faithful vocation, and to stay in shape. When we don't recognize the limits in our lives, we often face danger. When we break the speed limit, we increase the risk of harm and death, both to ourselves and others on the road. When we share someone else's secret, we break a limit of trust that has negative relational repercussions. When we spend more money than we have, we've broken the limit of reality, and end up in debt.
Yet, sometimes the only way to grow as people is to cross limits. Whenever we cross a limit, we should do so with purpose. Think about exercise. You cross limits in order to actually extend your limit. You ride past the point of exhaustion to extend your ability to ride. You lift past your last personal record to gain strength and ability. You run further than you ever have before to find a new standard of excellence. Sometimes crossing limits is the only way to grow.
At other times, crossing limits may not help us to grow, but may still be necessary. At this point in my life, I likely can't develop new habits where I sleep less and still feel my best. But the relational commitment that losing sleep shows to young people in faith helps others to grow past their own limits, even if the next day I operate worse than a Merle zombie on The Walking Dead. Sometimes we cross limits to help show others that they're worth the risk we take. The same is true for divulging personal information as a leader. At one level, leaders remain apart from the community. As another post references, this looks like leading from ahead or behind.
But at times, leaders must lead from the center. Leaders must show vulnerability and authenticity as a member of the community, as one who faces similar struggles and shares similar joys and cries similar tears and dreams for similar futures. This doesn't mean that we break inappropriate boundaries, whether physical or emotional or spiritual. Quite the opposite, in fact. Crossing personal limits where we show our unity with the congregation can help us to more accurately define the boundaries we need to operate as a healthy community. If we never surpass these limits as leaders, I suppose that's fine. That's just not Christian leadership.
For you see, it was Jesus who crossed the limits of godliness and humanity on Christmas. It was Jesus who crossed the limit of death on Good Friday. It was Jesus who crossed the limit of the tomb on Easter Sunday. All for us. There are times where not just pastors but all Christians are called to cross the limits in our lives. Sometimes we're called to do so to grow ourselves, and sometimes we're called to do so in order to help others grow.
But the only way to do this safely is to know our limits, our needs, our abilities, and then cross them with intentionality, with purpose, with love, and with health in mind for everyone involved. So know your limits, and if you don't, learn them. Ask yourself and those close to you where the limits in your life exist, and how you might intentionally cross them in order to grow yourself and grow your community.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.