A Realistic View of Our Limitations
Nobody's perfect. But are we prepared to live with that fact?
A new Christian gets baptized. He tells himself, 'because I'm among people worshipping God, it's gonna be smooth sailing from now on'. A young couple get married. They tell themselves, 'because we're so much in love, there will only be harmony and bliss'. A customer at a fast food restaurant sees the beautiful food photography on display, and thinks his order will look just like that. A Rams fan watches the 2019 Super Bowl, and expects his team to win. These are just some examples of unrealistic expectations.
Now, there's nothing wrong with being positive. Things often go better when we give others the benefit of the doubt and try our best in everything we do. But there's a point where noble aspirations become unleapable hurdles, where positivity becomes negativity. A very common area this is seen is in our view of limitations.
The first type would be our own limitations. When God created the world, the Bible says at Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good." God can say superlative things about himself. This isn't being arrogant, it's just a simple fact: Jehovah is perfect. We aren't. While we can take satisfaction in our work, there's always room for improvement, and there will be hiccups along the way, to say the least. To expect anything else from ourselves will just be a setup for disappointment. Let's go in our Bibles to Proverbs chapter 16, and we can leave it open there for the time being. Proverbs 16, and the first half of verse 18 says, "Pride is before a crash". The Bible also says elsewhere that "wisdom is with the modest ones". This isn't to say that we shouldn't work hard to improve ourselves, or that we should just give in to harmful tendencies because . . . imperfection. Rather, it's a good reminder that, when we make mistakes, even serious ones, we shouldn't beat ourselves up to the point that we stop trying. With God's help, anyone can get up from any situation, even multiple times.
The next area to talk about is likely even more of a challenge, namely: how we view the limitations of others. If we left our Bibles open to Proverbs 16, let's finish reading verse 18. The second half says, "a haughty spirit (is) before stumbling". Now some people obfuscate being stumbled and being offended. And this is interesting, because Jesus felt very strongly against stumbling others, even warned us against it, and yet, during his earthly ministry he was offending people left and right. But whose fault was that? Not his. Could it be that in our rush to judge another Christian on something they said, a way they looked or a choice they made, that we might be misinterpreting their intentions? Or maybe we feel that something isn't right, but in reality it's something that's open to interpretation or personal preference? While making choices for ourselves that we can live with is great, and while we should feel free to respectfully share our opinions without repercussions, never would we want to weaponize our conscience against another Christian. We're individuals, but we're in this together. On the other hand, what about when another Christian really does slip up and do or say something they'll probably regret? A good scripture to keep us grounded in reality and get off our high horse would be Ecclesiastes 7, starting in verse 21: "Also, do not take to heart every word that people say; otherwise, you may hear your servant calling down evil on you; for you well know in your heart that many times you yourself have called down evil on others."
The bottom line is, no matter how hard we try, we are going to regularly disappoint ourselves and others. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The word here used for sin basically means to miss the mark, similar to aiming for a bullseye in archery. Sometimes we get pretty close. Sometimes we miss it by a mile. The phrase "close, but no cigar" relates to games at old fashioned carnivals, where you would do things like hit a target to win a prize. Your aim could be off by only a few inches, but if it was outside the target area, you might as well have not even tried. It was close, but no cigar. God, on the other hand, is far more merciful than we would be. Romans 6:23 says, "the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord." No matter what we do, we never can earn it. We don't have to hit the bullseye to win the prize, and we couldn't if we tried anyway. But that doesn't make it just a participation trophy. We do have to try, and we do have to give our best.