A life without limits is part of the American dream. But what if living within limits is the key to a spacious life? What if we say “no” to hustle and hurry? Ashley Hales, author of A Spacious Life, talks with Amy Julia Becker about the benefits of limits, the goodness of interdependence within community, and the space needed to be attentive to others.
“Ashley Hales is a writer, speaker, podcast host, and holds a PhD in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is the author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs and A Spacious Life. Listen to The Finding Holy Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts and connect with Ashley at aahales.com or @aahales on Instagram and Twitter.”
On the Podcast:
“Limits are actually embedded in creation.”
“We have spread ourselves out so thinly that we have transgressed; we’ve gone beyond those good guardrails—those good, natural, human limits that God intended for our flourishing. We’ve bypassed them for hustle and hurry.”
“God’s good limits are actually for our flourishing. They enable creativity. They enable rest. They enable purpose and joy and connection. And when we live without limits, we live exhausted, where the goalposts of success are continually moving.”
“[How might choices] begin to bring more freedom for others, moving us outward from this boxed-in, closed-off sense where really life is all about me and my personal happiness and my sense of unlimited autonomy, which is what the American way tells us is the good life?”
“To love someone well means that we are accepting constraints “
“Jesus invites us into the constraints, particularly of the church as our first and new family, so we can live for the life of the world...The point of community is to actually bless our world wherever we are.”
Season 5 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast connects to themes in my newest book, To Be Made Well, releasing Spring 2022...you can pre-order here! Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day, as well as a video with closed captions on my YouTube Channel.
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God's good limits are actually for our flourishing. They enable creativity. They enable rest. They enable purpose and joy and connection. And when we live without limits, we live exhausted where kind of the goalposts of success are continually moving.
Amy Julia (25s):
Hi friends, I'm Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of personal pain and social division. And this season, we are talking about all things, healing, personal healing, spiritual healing, social healing, and more. And today I get to talk to Ashley Hales. Ashley is an author and teacher. And today we're talking about how to experience the spaciousness of limits. Yes. You heard that, right? The spaciousness of limits. I is this, gosh, this is a conversation I needed because I have found myself bumping up against my limits a lot this fall. And this is true of my whole life.
Amy Julia (1m 5s):
But I feel like especially right now, as we're kind of emerging from COVID and returning to fall sports for our kids and social activities for all of us and having events outside our home in the evening and meetings in person, it just feels like my time is more limited than ever. And yet I'm trying to pretend like that's not true. So I'm grateful for this conversation because it really helped me to pause and ask, what is it that I need to say no to where do I need to accept my own need for sleep or time alone, or just time with my family. I'm not kidding. When I say we finished this conversation and I emailed someone to say that Peter and I could not go to a party on Saturday night.
Amy Julia (1m 49s):
And I emailed someone else to say that my daughter could not play in a soccer game after all. So for anyone who is wrestling with too many good choices, too many demands on your time, or just a feeling of being boxed in by obligations, this conversation is for you. Well, I am here today with my friend, Ashley Hales, Ashley. Welcome. Thank you.
Ashley (2m 16s):
It's so fun to be
Amy Julia (2m 17s):
Here. And we are here to talk about your new book, a spacious life trading hustle, and hurry for the goodness of limits. And I just saw the title of your book having read your previous book. So I knew you were like a good thinker and writer and whatever, but I saw the title of this book and was like, I have to have her on the show. Like I, this is so speaking to me and I'm sure to so many other people, and I want to start by talking about this relationship between the spaciousness of the life that were offered and the limits that are actually, you contend it crucial to that. And I was thinking about when I first saw your title and you quote this eventually in the book, but I was thinking about the song.
Amy Julia (3m 1s):
So I'm 18, 19, God brought me into a spacious place. God rescued me because he delighted in me. And I love that song. I've thought about it lots in my life, but I was really struck by the fact that at the beginning of your book, you quote a different song and you vote Psalm 16, 1 16, 16 68, Okay. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. And I know there's another translation that even says the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. So it's basically this one song about like, you've brought me in, brought me into a spacious place. And then this other idea that like a pleasant place has limits that God has given us.
Amy Julia (3m 41s):
And I feel like this whole book is really about being brought into a spacious place through the goodness of limits. And that at least for me as like a modern American Christian White woman feels a little bit paradoxical. I am, I would love to just start by asking how can boundary lines and spaciousness coexist and actually be crucial to one another.
Ashley (4m 5s):
Yeah. You know, one thing as I was kind of playing with these ideas that really kind of struck me is that limits are actually embedded in creation. And I think as primarily as Americans definitely as Westerners, we contend to think of limits as in that, as the Christian terminology would be because of the fall, right? That before the fall, everything was great. We could do whatever we wanted, but you know, because the fall into sin, then there were limits, but that limits are actually part of what makes creation good. You know, that without limits, without boundary lines, there would be nothing right. The world would be without form and void.
Ashley (4m 45s):
And so it was the limits of the day and the night, you know, it was the limits of the sun ruling the day, not all the time, you know, it's the limits of planets, it's the limits of our, of the ground seasons. And it's also the limits of human creatures to that provided the guardrails for the flourishing of humanity. So it was, you know, Adam and Eve, you weren't supposed to be like wandering everywhere. You know, they were to, to tend to a garden. They were to live within the bounds of, of a marriage covenant like that. They weren't supposed to just be equally kind of engaged with everybody. And unfortunately, you know, in our 21st century life, we spread ourselves out. So thinly that we haven't really we've transgressed, we've gone beyond those good guardrails, those good, natural human limits that God intended for our flourishing we've bypass them for hustle and hurry.
Ashley (5m 37s):
And so really I'm just, you know, this is a V this is nothing new, nothing new, is it a spacious life, but, but I am hopeful that it is a gentle invitation to re realizing. And re-imagining, again, how God's good limits are actually for our flourishing. They enable creativity. They enable rest, they enable purpose and joy and connection. And when we live without limits, we live exhausted where kind of the goalposts of success are continually moving.
Amy Julia (6m 13s):
I, when our daughter, penny was first born and as you know, and most listeners probably know penny was diagnosed with down syndrome. And I remember really wrestling for a good, let me, I don't know, the first year of her life with thinking that she had like a particular brokenness to her as a result of having down syndrome. And I finally had a friend who said to me, you know, limitations and brokenness are not necessarily the same thing. And I think you're looking at Penny's limitations as someone who's been born with down syndrome and thinking that that is a particular form of brokenness and it's not necessarily. And once I started to think about like the ways that I put brokenness and limitation in the same category, when they're not like thinking about it from a Christian perspective, like Jesus had limits, he was born with that in and of itself was a limit.
Amy Julia (7m 5s):
And we'll talk more about that from your book, but like Adam and Eve had limits in the garden and they were good ones. And so, and then it started to help me realize how much I, as a, because in fact of being able bodied and having a certain IQ and being given all these opportunities socially in America and whatever, how much I pushed against limits that might in fact be very much for my good. So it was like, oh, wait a second. Me ignoring, avoiding denying limits is more a sign of brokenness than having a daughter who's been born with clear limitations is like, I was like flipping my whole world around, which, you know, has been the past 15 years of my life.
Amy Julia (7m 47s):
But I was really thinking about that both as you were speaking, and as I was reading your book and I wanted to hone in on one other point, you made within this idea of like limit less ness, like how much that is an American experience, especially when it comes to the amount of choice we have every day. So it's like clothing foods, even for some people, at least schools, jobs where you're going to live. Things that used to be more of a given are now choices. And I think even just the old phrase, like being, living in the land of opportunity, kind of the land of limitless choice can also paradoxically lead to us feeling confined, stuck, paralyzed in the midst of all of our choices.
Amy Julia (8m 32s):
So I'm curious, like, what do you think it is that makes us feel small and stuck in the midst of limitlessness or what seems like,
Ashley (8m 43s):
You know, I think the Brex in the second mountain talks a little bit about how this is a particular problem for young adults, that they have this constant pressure to kind of make and create themselves. And, you know, it's kind of like we're walking into a supermarket and there's like two full aisles of cereal, you know, and they're stacked all, you know, six 60 and six high. And, and you're like, unless you've already said, okay, I'm going to buy the honey nut Cheerios and frosted flakes or something like, you're just overwhelmed, right? Like you, you are not able to actually make good choices.
Ashley (9m 23s):
And so it's really in us imposing limits on our potential limitless choice that enables us to live in the world. Otherwise we would just like have decision fatigue every second. Right. And so I think, you know, there is something really important in the same way that we, you know, if we have been afforded a level of privilege. And so therefore we have more options is to say, what, what choices can I make? Like I'm walking into that cereal aisle that is going to promote flourishing for others, you know, for, for my place, for my church community, for my family and to not simply be like, well, I just really liked the frosted flakes more.
Ashley (10m 6s):
And so, you know, I'm going to just stick with that, you know, but maybe we should move on to the granola because that's actually something that's going to serve everybody better. But, you know, but in other words like that, this limitless choice does cause us to shut down and it does often mean that we retreat. And so when we do have those choices to begin to ask how those choices might then bring more freedom for others, move us, moving us outward from kind of this boxed in those off sense of, well, really life is all about me and my personal happiness and my sense of unlimited autonomy, which is what the American way tells us is the good life, right?
Amy Julia (10m 49s):
Yeah. This is, I have a quotation from you on page seven, but you wrote the way into a more spacious life was through a doorway. I didn't want to enter right through my limits. And I'd love to just hear some of your story, like what brought you to this place and even in what you were just saying, like, what types of choices have you started to make that might look different than the past, but again, like what brought you here? How did you get there?
Ashley (11m 13s):
Well, I think a lot of it was, you know, I grew up similarly in the sense that, you know, fed on a diet of world changing weather, that's kind of a Christian version or just your upwardly, mobile, white middle-class American. And, and there was a sense that I had succeeded in high school and college and onto my graduate degree and we, my husband and I lived overseas. And so there was a sense, you know, in our twenties that life was our oyster and, you know, and then of course you find out it's not usually most people a lot earlier, but you know, I think some of it was just, you know, the limitations of our careers at that point, then having children and a few sobriety, you know, that we weren't quite planning as many or quickly.
Ashley (12m 2s):
And, you know, so I experienced, you know, the limitations on my body in early motherhood a whole lot and, and feeling like I'm supposed to be the smart one and the accomplished one. And, and all I'm doing is like making the half of, you know, half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for myself today. And yeah, sweeping under the toddler high chair, 800 times two, like, what am I doing with my life? And so I think I had a lot of years where I was angry at that reality with God. And I think now that my children are teens and all in school, I kind of have a little bit more perspective too, on those earlier years of motherhood as character forming.
Ashley (12m 46s):
And I, I, you know, in some, in some ways I wish I would have seen them in the moment as, you know, if all of my life is really to be given back to God in worship, like the point isn't, if I'm writing academic articles right now, you know, or, or quote unquote successful right now in my career, you know, the point is, am I connected to God? And how can I be present to God and myself and others in life-giving ways, even in the limits that I have. And so I think in the last year and a half, we've all slowed down a little bit and we've all felt our affinities in new ways. And to see it as an invitation, instead of something to fight back has been something that has felt really freeing. It's made me less anxious and more confident that God's good and he's going to do it.
Ashley (13m 31s):
He wants, and I don't have to work it up to do so.
Amy Julia (13m 36s):
Yeah, I think so on the one hand, I agree with you, we've slowed down and there's been, at least in me, that's like both kind of happy receiving of that. And then also this degree of whether it's worry or I don't know, guilt maybe of like, but I was supposed to be doing all this stuff, you know, and I think there's, again, that sense of God on the one hand, this is where the experience of spaciousness within limits, I guess, is sometimes paradoxical where we don't always feel it in the moment.
Amy Julia (14m 19s):
Like I did not. I had a similar experience to you with small children where it was like, I don't really want to be here. Like this is, I would like to be writing books and this not seem to be contributing to that goal. And I don't feel very good at what I'm doing for sure. And it's been glorious for them to start going to school for me, but I enjoy my children and whatever I now can look back and say, God was very much like doing a lot in me. That was really good at that time. But it did feel like being in a box, even though what it actually was, was like opening up a doorway.
Ashley (14m 57s):
Amy Julia (14m 57s):
Sure. And I'm curious, what's in here because I think one of the things you write about is that God, in and of his own self, like offers us a model of a life of limitation, which sounds again, like why, what do you mean God is limited, but I'm curious if you could just talk a little bit about God as a model of the goodness of limits,
Ashley (15m 22s):
You know, Jesus chose to take on limits, right? He chose to enter into the world through the incarnation and took on a body and you know, was born through Mary's womb and lived in a particular spot of land and particular time. And what what's fascinating too, is that, you know, in his Ascension, it's not that he becomes spirit, right? He's he will always be a body because of that. And he will the wounds of the crucifixion and, and heaven. And he's also choosing to wait until all of his church, the bride is reunited and we all get to feast together before he's like drinking wine and celebrating with everybody.
Ashley (16m 7s):
And like, that is just amazing to think that the second person that Trinity took on limits to show us like, how do we could be human? You know, what's so it's just it's mind boggling. Right. You know that, but it's true. And we could see, you know, even in our own lives, we know that to love someone. Well, it means that we are accepting constraints, right. That we are emptying the dishwasher, even though we don't want to, because we know that it serves our spouse or, you know, we're changing a diaper or we are driving our children around to practices, or we're inviting people into our home from our church community, even if we don't feel like having people over. And we'd rather just watch a show and, you know, these are the sorts of things that we realize love often flourishes because of constraints.
Ashley (16m 54s):
And, and without them, without the, without those limits, we really wouldn't have love. It would just be everyone serving themselves.
Amy Julia (17m 3s):
Right. We have just be like autonomous individuals who take care of our own needs rather than actually giving and receiving to one another.
Ashley (17m 12s):
Yeah. And so, you know, we see Jesus accepting the limits of his body. He sleeps in a boat, we see Jesus, you know, bringing a rag tag group of disciples together from all areas of society. We see him healing people, and he's not like killing everybody. And he has 12 disciples, right. There's limits in his attention. And in his calling, he's primarily ministry in Jewish places. And, and he's also choosing to wait on God, the father, when he's tempted in the desert, he's not like going okay, great. I'll I, yeah, I should. I'm hungry. I should feed myself Satan.
Ashley (17m 53s):
You're right. Like, you know, he's saying, no, I'm gonna wait on God. The father, this is not, I'm not going to hurry ahead and hustle ahead. And then he also, you know, at, in Gethsemani particularly he is subsuming his well to the plan of redemption at the triune. God came up with before time and space were a thing. And you know, like he, in that garden, he does what our first parents in the first garden fail to do. Right. They bypass, they pass, they moved beyond their limits of what God said was good. Jesus abides within those limits, even if it means death, but then what's so beautiful, right. Is that there is the resurrection that, you know, and that means, I think if our, if the pattern of our lives look like us is that, that there will always be resurrection, whether it's now, or, you know, someday in the future, there will be restoration.
Ashley (18m 51s):
And so our limits don't have to pinch maybe quite as much.
Amy Julia (18m 56s):
So how do you think we know what our limits are like? Are they obvious things that we're just trained to not see? Or do we have to go through a process of discovery? Like, is there anything you've learned about like how to know what our limits are? And the reason I ask this is because I do think as women in particular, and maybe even more so as Christian women, it's really easy to learn how to be small, like just, you know, kind of old tapes of like women belong in the home you're supposed to be serving. And so you could say like, well, those are just my natural limits. Right. And I just need to like, receive those from the Lord and learn how to be content in the midst of all things, just like Paul said.
Amy Julia (19m 39s):
Right. And I don't think that's what you're saying. So I also think like, and so then we've got a cultural narrative. That's like a lean in, you can have it all. And I don't think that like, the, that certainly has not worked for me. I can say that much. And I, and I don't, and I do think that's like the problem of Adam and Eve in the garden is like trying to have it all and live without limits. But I'm also curious, like that process of discernment of when we are being called to essentially say, no, no, go for it. Like, God know that God is with you as you kind of confidently advance into whatever area of giftedness or opportunity is in front of you. And when to say, you know what, this is just a time for like rest, sacrifice, waiting, whatever it is.
Amy Julia (20m 22s):
And maybe it's simply like, pray about it, but I'm just wondering if you have any advice or like yeah, here, here's some things to think about something.
Ashley (20m 33s):
Yeah. I mean, that's a great question. You know, I think one thing, so my husband's a pastor and one thing when he was first ordained out 15 years ago, you know, th that part of it in the was not just how many degree you in information of course, but you know, what is your internal sense of call and what is your external sense of call? And I think that's really important, not only for pastors, but for all of us, you know, that it's not just like I have these great ideas and I'm going to just going to go read a book, right? Like I'm going to be a famous author or whatever people have this maybe internal desire to do, but you know, that there is also an external validation of that call the community that knows you well, your local neighborhood, your local church.
Ashley (21m 22s):
Is there a sense in which, you know, as was it Walter Brueggemann, who's talked about your, your desire in the world, hunger meet, right. Is kind of how we, how we can think about vocation. Stephen Garber talks about vocation in terms of given how I made and knowing what I know, what is my responsibility, what am I implicated in? What am I responsible for so that I am bringing the care of Christ to the world. And I think I really liked some of that language because I think it's hard because a lot of women are going to shirk their calling because it feels safer to accept these kinds of cultural limits. Right. And a lot of women and men too, you know, are going to be like bust ahead and try to bypass these limits and like go out and take it for themselves.
Ashley (22m 10s):
So I would say probably don't act on it immediately, you know, take some time to pray and consider and to pay attention to the, your local communities where you are, maybe just as a starting point, because I think we all approach those limits really differently, but yeah, don't do it on your own. Don't, you know, don't just try to discern calling on your own because that's just kind of playing into our current cultural narrative. Like I find out who I am by looking at myself and I look in myself to find out who I am and we're just circularly. Right. Autonomous.
Amy Julia (22m 50s):
Yeah. Which, and that kind of leads me to my next question, which is I'm. I do believe there's a difference between what you're writing about and kind of like self care life hacks. At the same time, I could make a list of things that I've read about in your book, learning how to weight, learning, how to rest, noticing your body. And I could also find those on like a list of self-care hacks, right? Like what, what makes a, an approach different than just that instiller, I'm just looking at myself, like, how can we do that in a way that is not completely self-referential?
Ashley (23m 27s):
Oh yeah. You know, a lot of the books started in a little bit anger with some of that self-help language, especially a lot of that had been whitewashed as Christian content, because I feel like that's, that's pretty anti gospel to be like, really, you need to go create your own life and get up there and do it. And yeah. That's America. Right? Exactly. Yeah. Nope, Nope. That will really only exhausted. And you just live, blow up your life in some way, shape or form, but, you know, that's a really great point about the ways in which you can have on a surface, similar sorts of activities, right. That might result from, from those sorts of things.
Ashley (24m 8s):
And I guess a lot of the question is, you know, what is it directed towards? You know, am I taking a nap? Like I am plugging in my iPhone, you know, so that I can go and go get after it, after I take my nap or, you know, am I, am I taking a nap because I have worked overworked or, or because I deserve it, you know, so what is the message underneath the activity? Or am I taking a nap because I'm trying to actually put my body in a position of declaring that God is God. And he doesn't need me right now to run the world. And you know, and some of that might be even just like, thank you, God, that you care for me and watch over me as I sleep, you know, and I'm going to go to bed now.
Ashley (24m 54s):
And so even just trying to reorient, maybe some of our innate habits that come out when we're, you know, I think a lot of it too, we can pay attention to our anger, the things that make us angry or frustrated or sad, and that those can be good, good kind of arrows pointing to help us know, you know, am I really angry about the messy house? Because I, I, you know, want a world of order and care, and I know this is better for us, or am I angry about it because it's like, I've done all this work and my children have messed it all up. And you know, and so I think just some of those sorts of questions are helpful to kind of discern the states of our soul.
Amy Julia (25m 35s):
Yeah. That's helpful. So I'm hearing you say like motivations matter and then like paying attention to the emotions that go along with actions. And then when you were talking, I also was just thinking about the ways in which self care, even if we are not ever referencing God as it relates to that doesn't mean that we're not doing something that God would want for us. That's not, it's not a bad thing to actually say, I'm going to take care of what I need for myself. Like that's a part of being a responsible person who acknowledges, perhaps with some humility that I've been created with limits, even if I'm not doing that in a way that is like prayerful and contemplative all the better.
Amy Julia (26m 19s):
If I'm actually doing that in it's that kind of full awareness of how God has made me. But at the same time, I have recently just thought a lot about like, love your neighbor as you love yourself. And that sense that if you don't know how to love yourself, like you may very well not know how to love your neighbor. Like that sense of, if you don't regard the image of God in you with attentiveness and care and like does being deserving of, and not just even deserving of requiring care and, and whatever it takes to live within those limits, then it's going to be pretty hard to actually bring that love into the world all the same.
Ashley (26m 60s):
Amy Julia (27m 2s):
You had another point in the book where you're writing about community. I just wanted to quote, one thing you wrote and you're writing about the idea of being salt. So this, you know, image from the Bible of little grains of salt, and you talk about how like one grain of salt is kind of absurd. Like it's just not purposeful, whereas salt gathered even in small quantities, but gathered together, serves a lot of different purposes. So you wrote to be the gathered salt of God. We must consent to the constraints of community, of being for others instead of using others often through limiting our times desires and even those secondary identities we hold dear.
Amy Julia (27m 43s):
So I just want to read the first line again, to be the gathered salt of God. We must consent to the constraints of community. And I love like, up until this point, I feel like we've been talking about kind of limits that are within ourselves as individuals like, oh, I need to sleep. And I didn't really understand that when I was in college or, oh, I need to, you know, I have these things that I can't just push through, but the constraints of community are something different. And I'd love for you to speak to the goodness of the constraints of community. And then again, like how do we actually realize that? And this in some ways goes back to your last book too, but like the, the goodness of where we are now and the people we're with now, especially when it sometimes seems kind of like small and mundane, but
Ashley (28m 26s):
Yeah, yeah. You know, it wasn't until recently, as I was talking about the book that I realized, oh, another way to org like that I've organized this book that I didn't even know. It was like the first half is kind of like loving God, like, you know, like ourselves and loving God. And the second is like, it's about loving neighbor, but yeah. You know, I think a lot of it looks like, you know, Jesus invites us into the constraints particularly of the church kind of as our first and new family. So we can live for the life of the world. If you think about, you know, the way back in the beginning, God calls Abraham. And he says like, I'm going to make you a people so that you can bless the nations and the, the point of community, you know, isn't like, oh, so we make a really cool community.
Ashley (29m 16s):
You know, the point of community is to actually bless our world wherever we are. And, and, but often I think when we talk about limits, sometimes some of us can hear that and we can be like, okay. So that means, I get to say no to everything I don't want to do. Right. You know, that I'm going to put up all these really hard boundaries and then my life will be great to just meet Jesus or, you know, or what have you. But really, I think it's important to realize that some of the limits that we're being invited into don't feel good and that they're not like they don't feel like flourishing. Like you were talking about like feeling trapped, you know, in those early mothering years. And so, and sometimes we say yes to the wrong limits and we say no to the ones, you know, that maybe God is inviting us.
Ashley (30m 1s):
So I think a lot of that is just discernment. And to ask her, you know, like, are we are the limits that I am living into one that are a blessing to other people, to my neighborhood place, to my family, to my community. And, and, you know, that does bring me back yet to my first book, finding wholly in the suburbs where part of like staying put doesn't feel good or sexy or fun, but to choose to say, I'm going to be a good neighbor. I'm going to stay here. And I'm going to continue to try to make small talk, even though don't like small talk or I'm going to, you know, put myself out there and try to meet new people, even though that's not really what I'd rather do, you know, or I'm going to continue to repair a relationship with a neighbor who's just angry about my tree or my kids, or, you know, whatever it is, you know, that, that then shows a certain form of love.
Ashley (30m 59s):
That is not self-serving that therefore is, you know, is something beautiful. And maybe probably makes people ask a questions about like, why are you like that? And I think then you can begin to have questions, conversations about faith as well. So I think that the constraints of community make us effective and they really showed that there is a love that is greater than ourselves love to.
Amy Julia (31m 23s):
And I think this is another, you know, I don't know, historically whether it would be a hundred years ago, 50 years ago when the constraints of communities started to feel more like choices does. Now, I think about, we live in a 3000 person town and there are a couple of churches here, but they are all small local Connecticut churches. And I remember when we got here and I had all these friends living in cities where it was like, there are so many churches and they're big and they've got a lot on offer. I'm like, well, and we kind of chose the church and it's like, yeah, they're going to be, I don't know, maybe 60 people in the pews.
Amy Julia (32m 5s):
And the majority of them are going to be over the age of 65. And the children's, I mean, there might be my kids in Sunday school this week, that's it. Or maybe there will be like three more and the choir is lovely and who knows, who's going to show up, but it has been for my husband and for me over the course of now, we're going into our 10th year here, the most rich church community we've ever had. And, and it's not an exceptional church. It's not a spectacular church. It's not like, oh my gosh, this is the best preaching. Or this is the best. Like, I've never known anyone to pray like that. It's not that it's just ordinary people who are gathering with a commitment to each other, you know, sometimes on Sunday mornings, you know, like, and I've been so struck.
Amy Julia (32m 58s):
I was so struck in thinking about the benefits to our family, of being in this like tremendously constrained church community. And then I think that can obviously go into the sense of like, okay, just choose to love your neighbors or your town or your school, or, you know, what does it mean to actually take what you've been given and live within that and see what God wants to do with it and, and trust God with that. So anyway, I have had
Ashley (33m 30s):
No, that's great. Yeah. I think it's just, it's so counter-cultural, and it, it can feel like you're trapped, you know, especially if you can look out over the internet vistas of like different, oh, well, look at that, person's preaching, then they're amazing. You know, they've got all of these programs and activities, but yeah. You know, even sociological sociological data that talks about how does faith get passed down and it's from families, right. And it's from communities that, that are like, families is not for all the flashy stuff that we tend to consume. And I think that's good news for those of us who say it is a wise limit to, to stay put and to commit to those people.
Amy Julia (34m 11s):
Right. Right. And I think back again, just to the many times when Jesus is talking about the way the kingdom of God comes into the world, the way it spreads and grows, and it's these small, slow, humble, you know, mustard seed, east images of domestic scenes, like, yeah, there's just this sense of the hidden and the lowly being of great value to God. And that there is something that we receive in those places that will actually draw us closer to God's heart and farther. I think into a sense of a spaciousness that comes not from the spectacular, not from the limitless choice, not from getting everything we want and leaning in and being ambitious, but actually from receiving the good gifts God has given us and being able to give from who we are and who we've been created to be in return.
Ashley (35m 11s):
Amy Julia (35m 11s):
You're right. So I've mentioned to you before we started recording that I have been doing a lot of thinking and writing around the topic of healing right now. And I was drawn to your book when I just saw the title, because it does seem to me that part of our healing on a more like spiritual and emotional level is finding out, discovering this idea that there are spacious places given to us by created for us by God, within our limits. And so I'm just thinking about some of the things you write about gratitude, hospitality rest. And when I look at the stories of healing and the gospels, even in these miracle stories of Jesus healing, people, there is a sense of like, there's a story of the 10 lepers.
Amy Julia (35m 58s):
And one of them comes back to give thanks to Jesus. And he's the only one who is actually the word in Greek says that he's healed in like a comprehensive sense. The rest of them, their skin is all better, but he's the only one who's actually healed. And it's in that act of gratitude and like connecting to Jesus that the healing happens or thinking about hospitality, which again, that sense of Jesus like connecting people to each other as a part of healing. It's not just like, I'm going to send you out as an isolated individual, but I'm going to connect you to each other. And then similarly, rest, I, I don't know if this is true or not, but I'm curious whether one of the reasons Jesus keeps insisting on healing on the Sabbath day is because of some relationship between healing and rest.
Amy Julia (36m 45s):
And obviously there's worship. There are other things involved there, but anyway, I'm curious whether you see a connection between living within our limits and receiving like the healing work that God wants to be doing in our lives.
Ashley (37m 5s):
Yeah. You know, I think one thing as I was reading the gospels a lot for this book is too, is just to realize that love and healing that Jesus offers off looks like paying attention. And it often looks like, you know, someone, I don't remember where I heard this from. I should probably chase it down. But you know, someone said that no one ever left Jesus feeling like unheard. He like, he paid attention regardless of, you know, if they were the right class or gender or, you know, they were outcast or, or what have you.
Ashley (37m 46s):
And I think that's, you know, as we think about, okay, what are the kind of housekeeping and care-taking disciplines I can do individually and in community that there is the opportunity for healing, but only to the extent probably that we learned to pay attention to Jesus, you know, and, and that, you know, we are practicing silence and rest and Sabbath. And like we are creating spaces for God's healing to come to us and through us to help heal others. We've noticed, I think we've just recently moved about four months ago from California to Colorado and just coming into a new community and a new church situation, just realizing a lot of our own work that we've done.
Ashley (38m 37s):
And a lot of failures in life and ministry that we have processed with counselors and spiritual directors and how it's actually helping to heal people here, because like we can be attentive in a different way, you know, because of the pain we've caused in the past and repented of, and the pain that has been inflicted on us, it's like opened up a space for us to be attentive to other people and not know where that's going and not have a grand plan about what the next step is, but to be able to pay attention to people has been, it's been a gift.
Ashley (39m 20s):
And I think we've, we've felt the spirit accompany us more in those conversations maybe cause we're a little bit less hurried as well.
Amy Julia (39m 30s):
Yeah. I do think that sense of opening up space slows us down, which is, I've been saying actually to a friend of mine who homeschooled her children throughout COVID and she's just, they've gone back to school this month and they're so she is so tired. Like she's, like, I thought I was gonna like start getting my life back and all I'm doing is sleeping. And I just have been just continuously being like, he makes me lie down in green pastures. Like you just need to lie down and like just rest for a while. And I think I love that sense that it is actually when we are willing to receive space, which actually kind of, again, in this almost ironic way, comes from slowing down, stopping even, and waiting that opens up space for healing to happen.
Amy Julia (40m 26s):
I'm even thinking my daughter like sprained her foot and it wasn't that bad. So it was like, yeah, keep going to soccer, practice, keep playing your games. And she's finally like, it just still hurts. Like I will I'll keep going, but it just still hurts. And I'm like, no, I think we need to just take a week off. Like no PE no gym, no classes, no whatever we're going to wrap your foot. We're going to. And so it has been this week of like sitting around and she's a little Nancy, but there's also, that is what actually opens up space and opens up a place for healing. And I wonder how true that is. Like, you know, that's kind of a metaphor for what can happen for us personally in our spiritual lives that if we just can slow down and like make space for God and pay attention, as you were saying, and then also on a communal level that if we are able to slow down and pay attention to our communities, what space does that open up?
Amy Julia (41m 21s):
Not for like massive church growth programs, but actually for like healing within the community and for care and for goodness. So yeah, I really, I appreciate that connection. Yeah. Well, I just wanted to, and with one more quotation that I think goes back to a little bit of what we were saying in the beginning, as far as the idea that like limitations is not the same as brokenness you, right? Dependence, not independence is the pathway into a more spacious life. And I again have learned that or am learning that only as an adult that we have been created in order to be dependent, obviously first upon God, but really upon one another as well, even though we are taught to, I think, fight against any sense of dependence.
Amy Julia (42m 13s):
And yet that ultimately that is, as you said, a gift and a pathway into a more spacious life. So thank you for offering those just really helpful, thoughtful, wise words to all of us. And I just want to say the title of your book one more time. This is Ashley Hales, author of a spacious life trading hustle and hurry for the goodness of limits. Thanks, Ashley. Thanks
0 (42m 37s):
For having me.
Amy Julia (42m 40s):
Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than fear in the show notes. As always, you can find out more about Ashley and her book, and I hope you will do that. I also hope you'll share this episode with friends and family and people, you know, who would also benefit from thinking about what it would mean to really say yes by saying, no, I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but I think that sense of recognizing the spaciousness that we are offered when we begin to live in our limits is a message that so many of us so desperately need to actually believe and live out. So I hope you'll share it. Of course, if you have a moment to give a rating or review of this podcast, wherever you find your podcasts, more people will benefit from these conversations.
Amy Julia (43m 24s):
I'd really appreciate it. And I'm always really grateful to Jake Hansen for editing this podcast and to Amber Barry, who is my just amazing social media coordinator and does pretty much everything needed to make sure this show gets out into the world. So thank you, Jake. Thank you, Amber. And finally, thank you for listening as you'd go into your day to day. I hope you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.