One long weekend we took our children to Los Angeles, to the hills under the Hollywood sign, to Griffith Observatory. The air was clear, the observatory a stark white nestled in green hills. It felt iconic: the city that isn’t quite a city lay below us, but from high up we could make Los Angeles what we wanted it to be.
We settled into our seats with our chairs leaned back to see the show on the domed screen. The room darkened. Constellations danced across the ceiling. We learned how ancient peoples navigated by the stars and worshiped them, and how we are but a small part of a small galaxy and that there are at least one hundred billion galaxies beyond in such a vast expanse. The film zoomed in to Los Angeles, to Griffith Observatory, where we were, and then zoomed out, and zoomed out, and zoomed out—and we were lost in space—in galaxies unknown.
I couldn’t imagine how big God must be to have thought this all up and then made it so. We wiggled a bit uncomfortably in our seats. For we are very small.
The world came to be with boundary lines. These boundary lines—these limits—create order for creation to flourish. Limits show us how the world works best. First there was nothing, and then through the powerful word of the Creator, it became something—named, identified, given purpose and meaning—at the will and authority of the God who is beyond space and time.
The breath of God spoke binding words, vows of who he was and is, and what and who creation would be. From an utterance of “let there be light,” suddenly light was separated from darkness. Waters were separated from an expanse he named heaven. The earth sprouted vegetation: seeds multiplied in accordance with their own kind, trees according to their own kind. The seas teemed with creatures of the deep, and the land grew with living creatures—each producing within the lines and limits of God’s own choosing. Each fulfilling its purpose. It was good.
And God got intimate, his hands in the mess of things— down in the dirt. He planted a garden in Eden, scattering seeds like a sower, creating a home with boundary lines for the crown glory of creation: humanity, the image of God himself in male and female form. He planted pleasant, shady trees, a delight to the eyes with their vibrant colors and juicy fruit. Oh, it was good.
And within that place, God took dirt from the ground and formed a human; God breathed into his nostrils and he became alive with the very breath of life. And when no helper was found suitable for him, God formed a woman, bone of Adam’s bones and flesh of Adam’s flesh. The two were to be one flesh, unashamed, caretakers of Eden. It was very good.
Creation was given limits: to reproduce, to be subject to the changing of seasons. Subject to time, change, and a cycle between fallow and flourishing. There were limits on celestial bodies: the sun was to rule the day and the moon the night. Even the naming of the world, of light and dark, of seas and land, gave assignments and limits to creation. Planets were not to go just anywhere but had an orbit; vegetation grew according to the limits of its seasons, and animals flourished best within a limited habitat. Without the loving setting of limits on the natural world, it would be void and without form.
Limits Show Love
Limits are built into the fabric of creation as part of God’s loving rule and care. Limits are not a result of sin, strictures to hold us down, but a part of God’s very good plan. Limits create for us a home; they create the condition for flourishing.
Limits, given to the world by a loving God, are the conditions for life.
We are no different. People too were given limits not to restrict and cajole, but like all of creation, for their flourishing. Adam and Eve were limited to a place. Eden, their home, was to be where they lived out the faithfulness of their union for the good stewarding of all creation. As the crown of creation, they wielded power and authority as stewards, but within the loving rule of the Creator of the cosmos. They were to care for creation, to name animals, to have vegetation for food. There were also limitations of what not to do: they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Adam and Eve were given to each other only to live within the limits of a covenant: a binding relationship proceeding from God that fostered trust, care, and offspring. Limits create the conditions for relationship—they provide the guardrails to guide us to the place where we know and are known. These vows protect.
Everything had a place, a role. There was an order and authority under which humanity sat and a ceiling to their autonomy, and there was an invitation to responsibly care for others and for their particular spot of land. Limits were very good—they showed the path for the world as it ought to be. Limits of relationship, limits of purpose and calling, limits of authority—each was an invitation into community with one another and with their Creator who walked with them in the cool of the evening.
Limits were and still are an invitation into flourishing.
Adapted from A Spacious Life by Ashley Hales. Copyright (c) 2021 by Ashley Hales . Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
Photo by Hogarth de la Plante on Unsplash
I love the beautiful imagery used to describe the vast possibilities which open when we step into the limits God has designed for us within all of creation. Just lovely and freeing in a world that often feels like limits are meant to hold back and bound. Thank you for your words.