Discover the Gift of Limits

I tried it, and it worked! My belly emptied out, and I felt better. It was my first step in a very dangerous direction.

For years to come, anytime I overate, I would go and empty my surplus food into the toilet. Then I began planning ahead. On pizza day at school, I would order two ginormous slices and eat every bite—then go and flush the consequences away. It felt like I had discovered a happy-go-lucky loophole. I could eat whatever I wanted and still keep my jeans from feeling tight.

But my flushing loophole quickly became an obsession. I had set out to find freedom and found slavery instead.

Learning to Love Limits

God designed for us to live within limits. For each of us, there are twenty-four hours in a day, 300 calories in a donut, and 100 cents in a dollar. God didn’t give us these limits to make us miserable; He set up limits to help us thrive.

We always think that bending the limits (or blowing right past them) is going to give us the freedom we crave. But think of the friends you know who regularly:

  • Eat too much and have lots of weight to lose
  • Spend more money than they have and have debts to pay off
  • Constantly stay up too late and are irritable and can’t stay awake in school
  • Spend so much time on their phone that they are addicted and can’t go more than two minutes without checking it

Do those friends seem like they are free?

I hope not. But I’m guessing some of you will say, “That sounds pretty good to me.” Maybe you’re the type of girl who is driven to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want. Maybe you’re determined to throw caution to the wind, downplay the consequences, and sink your teeth into the very thing that your mom, your teachers, your doctor, and everyone else is warning you not to.

If so, let’s talk a bit more about the topic of control.

Control Girls Hate Limits

Control Girls like control. (Obviously.) We like to have and keep and take control. And the one thing we despise most is giving up control. We hate feeling trapped by rules or boxed in by authority figures. We want to be in control, not under control.

This is definitely how I felt as a teen. I ate too much; I drove too fast; I stayed up too late. If some adult was telling me not to, I inwardly grinned and went right ahead. God seemed to me like a restrictive killjoy. His book was full of rules and restrictions, and I wanted to live!

Is that how you feel, too? Maybe you wouldn’t admit it out loud, but are you convinced that God wants to limit your enjoyment of life? If so, think about this.

God gave Adam and Eve one restriction. One. They weren’t to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It was their only rule, but still it was a rule. So since there was a rule back when things were perfect, rules can’t all be bad, right? And this rule would have actually been really good to listen to.

When Adam and Eve sinned and ate the fruit, the world became contaminated. Like a spidery crack throughout all of creation, everything became tarnished. Cancer, disease, divorce, tsunamis, and death are all the results of breaking God’s one rule.

Because of sin, our hearts naturally lead us to disaster. Instead of needing one rule from God, we need hundreds! Our hearts want to blow past God’s restrictions and then avoid the consequences. We want to eat six pieces of cake and flush the consequences away. We want to buy all eighteen pairs of jeans and let the credit card debt accrue. We want to binge watch a Netflix show, then skip church and sleep in.

God wants us to flourish, and limits are part of that. But will we trust God, or will we trust our Control Girl hearts?

Course Correction by Degrees

What limits do you tend to push? For me, it’s being late, overeating, and going to bed on time. Those are my top three. What are yours? Go ahead and list out your top three in the comment section below this post.

Now, here’s some encouragement. These top three areas of struggle offer the perfect practice exercises for your “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” transformation!

Take food, for instance. For me, food is a perfect way to practice surrendering to God, because my cravings never stop. Every time I pass a drive-through or hear the cherry licorice calling my name, I have a new opportunity to train my heart in the art of surrender, saying, “God, instead of caving in to me, I’m going to surrender to You.”

During my freshman year of college, I surrendered to God in a big way. I had spent years trying to live outside of God’s lines, then trying to flush away the consequences. It wasn’t working. I was enslaved and miserable.

But my surrender to God didn’t happen in a moment. Surrendering to God involves giving Him control over your sweeping life decisions, for sure. But surrender is often moment-by-moment. Like when we choose to not buy something, not eat something, or not watch something.

In these small moments of obedience rather than selfishness, we re-train our hearts to follow God—not the path to the cherry licorice. When we live within God’s limits, we alter the course of our lives by tiny degrees. Little by little, as we choose to be under control, not in control, God changes us. We go from Control Girls to Jesus Girls.

About Author

Shannon Popkin

Bestselling author and speaker Shannon Popkin loves to blend her gifts for storytelling and humor with her passion for God’s Word. Shannon is the co-author of Influence: Building a Platform to Elevate Jesus (Not Me) and Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible. Shannon is happy to be sharing life with Ken, who makes her laugh every single day. Together, they live the fast-paced life of parenting three high school and college-aged kids. 

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