One thing we know about PerGen readers is that they are…well.. readers! We celebrate the rich experiences, diverse faith backgrounds, and affiliation, and thoughtful approaches to life and faith of those who stop by our website to read and engage. To that end, it is a fun treat for us to be able to do occasional book give-aways of titles we believe you’ll enjoy. Giving away books is our love language!
Ashley Hales’s new book is one of those titles.
Here’s the description of the book: We’re told that freedom and opportunity are our ticket to the good life. Get out there and follow your dreams! Be the hero of your own story! Find your happiness! Live your best life! It seems that limitless possibilities await anyone with vision and willingness to hustle their way through life. The thing is, instead of resulting in a sense of accomplishment, this limitlessness merely has us doing more and trying harder―leaving us depleted and dissatisfied. With life and faith. Ashley Hales invites us to a better way: a more spacious life. Contrary to what we’ve believed, the spacious life is not found in unfettered options or accomplished by our hustle and hurry. The life we crave is found within the confines of God’s loving limits. Ashley helps us recognize that when we live within these boundaries, we discover a life filled with purpose, joy, and rest. This is the spacious life―finding true freedom within the good limits given to us by our good God.
Living within limits? Midlife can be a tutorial in that very thing, can’t it?
We are giving away TWO copies of A Spacious Life: Trading Hustle and Hurry for the Goodness of Limits. If you’d like to be entered in the drawing for one of those copies, click here and give us your name and U.S. mailing address before midnight (Eastern) Friday, September 3rd. (We don’t use those names and mailing addresses for any purpose other than including you in the drawing.)
Ashley graciously agreed to answer some questions about what led her to write this book. Read on to get to know her better.
Q. In what ways have you seen your own limits in life as invitations to knowing God?
Seeing my limits as invitations isn’t something that comes naturally; I’m more apt to fight my limits, or feel ashamed by them than allow them to ask questions of me. Maybe some of us are a little hard-headed than most!
As I became a parent and as we had 4 children in less than 7 years, I quickly realized I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t meet everyone’s needs or even use the bathroom in quiet. As I’ve aged, small things like an aching knee or lack of sleep show me what limits show us: how very human we are. We’re recently moved. I’ve accepted a lot more help in the process, been able to move past the anger of dinged and broken things in the move, and work at giving myself and my husband grace as we navigate new work and family life. Limits aren’t something to be fought, ignored, or a source of shame.
I’m learning that when I become overwhelmed (because I’m trying to hustle and do it all or hurry through my to-do list) to stay in that overwhelm for a minute. To breathe and bring that limit to God. Something as small as a breath prayer (“I’m overwhelmed (breath in), be my God of peace” (breathe out)) can slow us down and invite God into the moment, knowing he dwells with us and delights to rescue us.
Q. What kind of mindset should replace the “do more and be more” mindset? Why Is this important?
Western culture functions best by using language of productive machines — we think of rest as plugging in after a hard day’s work so we can be more productive the next day. From our paid and unpaid work, we’ve equated our worth with our work. Yet the god of productivity always asks more of us and we find we’re always hustling to catch up.
Jesus, the only perfect and limited one, shows us spiritual rhythms that embrace limits. We see him going off when it was still dark to pray, we see him stop mid-sentence in the temple to notice a woman bent in half and he heals her, we see him napping in a boat when a storm comes up. His ministry was to a particular spot of land, at a particular time, to particular people. He didn’t overextend himself.
As we follow in the way of Jesus, he’s inviting us to see our primary identity as dearly loved children. Dearly loved children know they have a good parent they can turn to, they don’t worry where their next meal is coming from, or what the 10-year plan is — they exist within the confines of love and care. And they’re free to play.
Play and delight in God, in others, and in our places, then subverts the story of productivity that says you’re only as good as your next big thing. It releases us from a treadmill of activity and the roiling anxiety that attends our days. Even if the outward circumstances of our days don’t look much different, a spaciousness of soul opens up when we press into this identity: I am loved by a good Father. I have nothing to prove.
Q. How can our work of embracing limits actually lead us to a more spacious life?
We tend to think that limits box us in and make us claustrophobic — that we’ll live a truncated sort of life if we embrace them, or we’ll get used and stepped on by the productive workhorses around us. In C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, there’s a line where the last king of Narnia, Tirian, gets pushed into the stable that had had an Aslanic imposter in it. But inside the stable, he discovers it’s changed. It’s an entrance into another world where “the inside is bigger than the outside.” Our limits are like that — they look homely and restrictive from the outside, but we can learn to see them as doorways into a more spacious life.
In a recent writing workshop, I was asked to write a poem in a form I’d never heard of before that class. We had just 10 minutes. With the clock ticking, I started to freak out. But with the constraint of time, with the pressure of other students, and the expectations from our instructor that we could, in fact, do it: I completed the task. Creativity flourishes amidst constraints.
When we acknowledge our real limits before God (a season of life, our own affections and desires, the pains in our bodies or souls) we invite him into the real stuff of life. As we follow the pattern of Jesus’ life, we’ll see how Love always limits itself in self-giving ways for the life of the world. When we experience that love in the midst of our own limitations, we’ll be going deeper into the heart of Christ — not scurrying around trying to make a name for ourselves. We’ll find that the inside is really bigger than the outside.
Ashley Hales is writer, speaker, podcast host and PhD. She is the author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs and A Spacious Life (September 14, 2021). Listen to The Finding Holy Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts and connect with Ashley at com or @aahales on Instagram and Twitter.
Cover photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash