Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Accepting Limitations


We all have limitations or things in our life that we don't like. The general tendency is to try and change these things. Sometimes that's a good approach for some things need to be changed. But often this change is aided by consumer products and services. And consumerism itself fuels our dissatisfaction with our lives. And it is that dissatisfaction that also prevents us from accepting the limitations of the earth.

While listening to a prison chaplain talk about his experiences the other day, the phrase 'life sentence' jumped out at me. The thought of someone who can never get what he wants (freedom), and needs to accept his situation will last for his entire life, seemed quite terrible to me. How would he find joy, peace and hope? The only way he could find any degree of contentment would be if he learned to accept his situation. Fighting against it and wanting to be free would only make him miserable.

Christians often use prison cells as a metaphor for breaking free of certain things in our life. And it can be quite a good metaphor. There are some things we need to break free from. However, if we see everything as a prison cell that we do need to break free from, then maybe we lose our ability to find peace, joy and hope where we are. Maybe we are too busy fighting our cells that we miss the opportunity to appreciate what we do have and work within our limitations.

Nowhere is the dissatisfaction with our lives more apparent than in the area of appearance. Got brown hair and want blonde? Dye it. Got brown eyes and want blue? There's coloured contacts for that. Don't like your boobs or your nose or your face? Get plastic surgery. I could go on but you get the picture.

Consumerism fuels this dissatisfaction with the way we look. The more dissatisfied people are with their appearance, the more consumer products and services they buy. But it also makes us unwilling to accept any aspect of our appearance we don't like - even the ones we can't change. I admit, I've sometimes felt hard done by because God didn't make me tall, blonde, slim and beautiful. When I do that, I not only end up frustrated and discontent, but I ignore all the very good qualities God has given me. I'm too busy looking at what I don't have and what I want to see changed.

Let's look at something completely different - comfort. If we're unwilling to accept anything we don't like, then we must be comfortable all of the time. When we exercise, we prefer to be in air-conditioned, enclosed gyms rather than out in the outdoors. We like outings where all the unpleasantness has been taken away. Our houses must be perfectly comfortable. We don't like to be too hot or too cold. We're no longer willing to accept the limitations of the weather or the seasons. So we crank up our air-conditioner to achieve the desired temperature. All of this uses energy.

And speaking of energy, we are also not willing to accept the limitations of the planet. Our desire to change our life and situation - through the consumer products we buy and the energy we use - often has a detrimental effect on the earth. But rather than limiting our impact, we demand that the earth continue to give us what we want to make our lives as "perfect" or as "easy" as possible. And we pretend that it will always do so.

It won't. The earth is a prison cell. Oh yes, it's a beautiful prison cells. It has wonders and delights and can give us everything we need if we take care of it. And it's not the kind of prison cell I want to break free from. But it's a prison cell in the sense that there's nowhere else to go. Humanity doesn't get to escape from earth. We are stuck here.

And we can pretend that the limitations of this earth don't exist. We can refuse to accept them or fight against them. But none of this will do any good. Those limitations will still be there.

Or we can learn to live within those limitations. We can appreciate what we do have, but realise there are limits to it. And when we do learn to live within those limitations, we are more likely to find joy, peace and contentment. We are also more likely to appreciate what we do have and want to take care of it.

Acceptance is not a popular trait in our society. But for the sake of the earth and our own wellbeing, we must cultivate it. Yes, there will be things in our life that we don't like. Yes, there will be limitations imposed upon us that we want to break free from. But life should be about accepting those limitations, rather than believing we must get everything we want.

I have linked our refusal to accept limitations to consumerism. But while I certainly think consumerism has made this human inclination worse, it is not limited to consumerism. The bible tells us that Adam and Eve were given access to every tree and plant in the Garden of Eden except one. Rather than accepting that limitation, they ate the forbidden fruit.

How many of us have thought, if I was in the Garden of Eden, I'd be happy with what I had? Really? We don't seem so happy with what we have at the moment. We're always wanting more, always wanting to change things, always refusing to accept the limitations placed on us.

And to say we don't live in the Garden of Eden is not an excuse. Yes, the Garden of Eden was filled with good things. But so are our lives now. The world is amazing place. Our lives are filled with so many gifts from God. We have nature and relationships and bodies that are just incredible. We have joy and delight and wonder. There is so much to be thankful for.

Let's not ruin what we do have. Let's appreciate it and take care of it. Let us work within the limitations of the earth. And let us cultivate those traits of acceptance and gratitude. There may be things in our lives and our world that we don't like. But if we learn to accept what we do have, we will also learn that there is much in our lives and our world that we love. There is much in our lives and our world that we should appreciate and preserve.




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