They’re posted everywhere. They’re in our places of work, in grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels. They’re in the movie theaters, in our schools, at the local pool. Little posted signs warning of the maximum capacity. We’ve seen them before, but how often have we really focused upon them? How often have we been careful not to surpass the posted allowance? It’s possible that you’ve not even considered them once.
You wouldn’t be alone in that, either. Trust me, when I’ve got a couple crisp bills in my pocket and a vision for a do-it-yourself project, I don’t care how many people are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in that antique shop. I’m going to twist, turn, duck, even dance to get through to those 20-dollar vintage windowpanes. And if I spot some blue glass mason jars in the process, watch out because I’m making a sharp detour and there’s not going to be much warning.
No, we don’t pay attention to these signs in our day-to-day life. We desire more. We dare to believe that fitting one more person into the front row of a concert with a standing crowd is possible. And, after that, two more. Okay, maybe just three more. It’s just that we need all our friends right there with us, belting the lyrics to our favorite songs. Because what fun is it if we can hear the artist’s voice over the off-key voices of the ones we love most?
We pull up extra chairs to single tables in small coffee shops, and question why tickets are necessary for free events. We care so little about whatever “maximum capacity” means. That is, until someone decides to share the same gift with the world that we have.
Someone we know receives recognition at work, picks up a new instrument, announces their season basketball stats, becomes a nurse, a dancer, or a police officer like us, and selfishness threatens to rise up inside. We are tempted to worry about whether there will be enough room in the world for both their gift and our own. Our minds become tormented with thoughts of being outshined, as if there’s a maximum capacity for our calling in God’s Kingdom.
These moments leave us hurting because, as concerned as we become, we do still want to push our friends on toward the dreams the Lord has given them. It just feels a little forced in the moment.
I was struggling with this same competitive feeling when the Holy Spirit asked me to look again at the very definition of the term. Maximum capacity refers to the total number or amount of something that can be contained. In other words, if there were more than this posted number, they could not possibly fit. They would overflow. They would spill out in hallways, down sidewalks, across cities, around the world.
Maximum capacity. Contained. What worth do these words have to our Lord God? A God who is generous with His gifts, and even more generous with His love? He turns no one away, deems no one unworthy of His mercy. What worth do these words have to those who love Him, either then?
Isn’t the very reason we use our gifts because we love God so much that we desire to see His Kingdom spill out across the globe? We hope to see others rise up and share their own gifts for His glory.
Let’s not begrudge our same gifts in others then, but inspire and encourage the development of them. It doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds, either. There’s a way to overcome that maximum capacity mentality. We simply have to open the windows, break down the walls, and invite others in.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying before that a person’s eyes are the windows to their soul. No, girls, I’m not about to indulge your passion for Nicholas Sparks’ books here. This saying is actually derived from the book of Matthew, where it is written that the eye is the lamp of the body. Our eyes not only look to, but also reflect that which fills us. It’s biblical.
When our eyes are fixed on Jesus, we reflect His light. That means, when we are in regular communication with Him through His Word and through prayer, He reminds us of truth. Truth allows us to break free from the bondage of selfishness and envy.
God’s Word reminds us that each of us, as His children, were fearfully and wonderfully made. If we look to the original Hebrew text, “fearfully” means with great attention and heart-felt interest. “Wonderfully” means marvelous, unique, or set apart. So, the gifts given to each of us were carefully hand-picked by God. They are intended for a special calling- even if they look similar to the human eye. A friend and I might both be called to become writers. However, I may be called to write in order to narrate the works the Lord is still doing. She may be called to write in order to teach God’s Word given the historical context of the Bible.
Romans 12:3-8 reminds us of how different our gifts, which Paul calls our functions, really are.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Romans 12:3-8
Opening up the eyes of our soul- looking to Heaven in this way- reminds us of our true identity. We are God’s daughters. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Deeply known and fully loved. We can stand confidently, trusting there will surely be room in God’s Kingdom for the very gifts He created within us.
The spirit of insecurity erects walls in our hearts that shut others out if not taken under authority, especially those who share the same gifts as us. These walls crowd us right back into the maximum capacity mentality. With them come whispered lies that we ought to covet one another’s gifts, or that we ought to treat one another as competition- with indifference or hostility.
After we have opened the windows of our soul, we are reminded who we are in Christ Jesus. We are also reminded of others’ true identities. We are all hosts of His presence, agents of the same mission. The same way that we hold our calling close, so do others. We all do it because we desire to see others come to know who they are in Christ too.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, …” – Ephesians 4:11-16
How much more difficult does that make it to mean-mug the sweet girl down the hall because she tried to share a song she wrote after you’ve been struggling with the chorus of your own?! Or what about the new teacher who won a Golden Apple with the same strategies you’ve been using for years? She’s not your competition. She’s your cohort. Together you’re working to conquer a mission field for the Lord.
Because the Holy Spirit of God fills us, His power can work within us to tear down the walls of our heart we now see so clearly. But only if we’ll surrender to Him daily. It requires first keeping our eyes on Heaven, then committing to renew our minds with the truth so that we might live from it. As we renew our minds with reminders of who we are, God tears down the walls in our heart and allows us to appreciate others’ and their callings. Pride, jealousy, insecurity, and hostility have no power over us.
With open windows comes the understanding that there is no maximum capacity for our calling in the Kingdom of God. We were created uniquely, and intentionally. Broken walls teach us there is no maximum capacity for people in the Kingdom of God. Our diverse gifts were distributed to lead everyone to His love. We can appreciate them because we honor the purpose they serve.
All of this leaves us with wide-open space. Space to invite God’s people in. Space to pull them in close and encourage, perhaps even inspire, the development of their gifts.
It’s when we’ve been disciplined in renewing our mind that nurturing others’ gifts becomes easy. Something that we want to do. We’re able to reach out to others and help others’ grow in their gifts without concern for the recognition of our own. We can give advice, ask questions, and share encouragement. We can go out of our way to see God’s Kingdom overflow with redeemed souls.
And that’s the beauty of squashing a maximum capacity mentality. There’s no such thing as too close anymore.
Come move on in, sister.