Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

This summer I read “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” with Rob and others in our church who are in vocational ministry. One of the points the author makes is that we must embrace our limits in order to be emotionally healthy spiritual people. Embracing our limits means remembering that we are human, that we cannot possibly be everything or do everything or have it all or live forever. We have limits and we can either live as if we are limitless, try to fight our limits, or embrace them.

As a Christian leader, this is especially difficult to do. A mentor told me once, “the work of ministry is never finished” and I feel that on a daily basis. I work in campus ministry with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Gonzaga. As the only staff at Gonzaga, the list of potential things I could be doing at any given moment is endless. I get anxious even thinking about it. Also my personality/family culture/sin patterns lean towards the “I need to be doing all the time and my worth and value comes from being productive”. For me, embracing my limits means accepting that I can’t individually mentor all of my students, that I can’t function well without eating lunch, that I can’t prepare and lead a Bible study, run errands, eat, and have 4 meetings on the same day (although I did try).

I believe that embracing our limits is linked to the core of what it means to be a Christian. It brings us back to familiar truth: God is in control. God is more capable and powerful than we are. God is at work in the world. God is infinite. God loves us. But, if we are being honest, most of our lives don’t reflect a belief in those truths. Ultimately, living without acknowledging our limits is an attempt to play God, and that is never a good place to be in.

Fighting or ignoring our limits is damaging in many ways, to our health, our quality of work and those we lead. In contrast, embracing our limits puts us in line with the truth about ourselves and God. It gives us the freedom to live into rhythms of work and rest.  

Recently one of my leaders said, “meeting with Alayna makes me feel more human”. This is what I long for the students I work with to feel. As a group of high achievers at a university that values the student who does everything, I want them to know that it is okay and good to embrace being human--limited and yet completely loved. As much as I want to impart these truths to my students, more often than not they are the ones who are teaching them to me. One of my students has been an example for me in this, canceling all her social obligations when she has reached “the point of no return”, realizing when she starts to “hustle for her worth” and making space for silence and solitude to hear God’s voice of love.

Ultimately, living within our limits creates space for us to experience joy. When I don’t have to be the superhero InterVarsity staff, then I am free to be present to the things that bring me deep joy in ministry--

being with students as they encounter God in silence and prayer...

deep conversations at Trader Joe’s...

watching students cry when they realize how much God loves them.