⊗ Healthy boundaries. God is teaching me lately. How ironic though. I remember a time when I was a newly saved and zealous Christian back in a charismatic church in Canmore, Alberta. We had a good old book burning. For real. You know, the kind where you dig up all the stuff you were reading in your old life and just light ‘er up, bonfire-style? Well, during this fiery explosion of my new-found faith, I started grabbing other people’s “maybe-keep” piles. It was during this moment of passion that I clearly remember burning a book my friend owned on boundaries. “Too pop-culture-pseudo-Christian-psychology garbage,” I thought. Man, maybe I should have read it before I burnt it.
⊗ Boundaries. So hard to have yet so necessary. Why is it that nice people think having them is so mean. Us ‘nice guys’ think, “doesn’t a boundary keep people out and say I’m more important than you?” And then there’s the issue of being a person who follows Jesus. In Christianity, aren’t we taught the opposite? I mean how did Christ have boundaries? In this day of COVID-19, the big argument many have had against mask usage is that Jesus touched the lepers. Where’s the boundaries in that?
Doesn’t a boundary keep people out and say I’m more important than you?
⊗ Let’s dig into the Word a bit. Remember when Jesus said, “you stay here while I go pray”? He didn’t allow anyone to come with Him. He loved them but he said, you stay here. I have a boundary. I need this time alone with My Father.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” – Matthew 26:36
⊗ Even when people needed Him, he would withdraw when He knew He had to. He could have stuck around and taught and healed more sick people but He didn’t.
But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. – Luke 5:15-16
⊗ I’ve had a hard time setting healthy boundaries, have you? Maybe you let people walk all over you like a “door-mat” and see that as being a loving servant. Or maybe you’ve burnt yourself out so much for the sake of others that you now can’t do what the Lord wants you to. You are not being selfish for setting healthy boundaries. Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:30).
Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. – Dr. Brene Brown
⊗ I had difficulty making some clear boundaries the other day. I just knew in that moment that I had to call one of my good friends who always seems to know just what to say. And just as expected, she did. Do you have a friend who doesn’t abandon you even in your darkest times? Gives wise advice? Prays for you? Don’t lose them. These friends are definitely hard to come by in this day of backstabbing and betrayal, “leveling up”, ditching, and the popularity-gaining “cancel culture”.
A person of too many friends comes to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24
⊗ My friend’s advice was centered around the analogy of yards, fences, gates, and walls. By the way, many teach on boundaries, such as Dr. Henry Cloud (sorry Henry, yours was the aforementioned book I burnt and never read). This teaching may come from there, I don’t know, but I do know that the Word guides us in all truth and will give you the revelation you need on anything, including relationships.
⊗ So here’s the analogy. Once upon a time, there was a woman with children who lived in a house with a yard. The woman’s children loved to play outside in their yard. Rightly so. It was a beautiful, lush yard with green carpet-like grass and lots of trees to climb and swing from. The problem was that the woman’s next-door-neighbor had a dog, and that dog loved to come over to her yard and poop in it. That’s right, poop. Anytime the woman’s children went out to play in their yard, they would get this dog’s poop all over themselves. Not impressive and not fun.
⊗ So the woman decided to put up a fence. The fence was built around her own property with a clearly marked gate for her neighbor to use. The fence allowed her children to play freely and happily without getting dog poop on themselves. The problem was, the neighbor didn’t like it. And just like this woman, as soon as we set clear boundaries, there will be people in life who don’t like it. The truth is, we often don’t set boundaries because we are worried what people will think of us. Set them anyway. Jesus didn’t let others manipulate, guilt-trip, bait, or use entitlement against Him.
- From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” – Matthew 16:21-23
- While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:46-50
⊗ So the dog-owning neighbor, in his anger, rang the woman’s doorbell and said, “How dare you put up a fence around your yard? My dog loved coming into your yard and now he can’t anymore!” The woman calmly replied, “I have not put up a wall to keep you out. There is a clearly marked gate in the fence for you and your dog to enter through. That being said, if you decide to use the gate to visit me, you must bring a doggy bag with you to clean up your dog mess before you leave. “Well, the nerve!” huffed the man as he stomped off towards his home.
⊗ After hearing this analogy, I put a few things together. I realized that I hadn’t been great at setting clear boundaries. Maybe I expected people to just know them without being assertive enough to say what they were. Really, I was afraid of rejection. I also realized I had been a person that went from having a wide-open yard without a fence and gate to being an immediate wall constructor. “Here, poop all over my yard until I go absolutely crazy and build a wall so you can’t ever get in again.” Nope, not healthy.
⊗ Ask God where you’re at with having healthy boundaries in your relationships. Maybe you’re the ‘wide-open-yard-person’ or the ’50-foot-wall-builder’. Or maybe you’re the ‘dog-owning-neighbor’? (Oh man, that’s the hardest one to confess to). Be honest with yourself and let Him be honest with you. Taking on the yoke of Christ and knowing I have the freedom and ability to set clear and healthy boundaries for myself has been life-changing and I’m sure it will be for you too. My advice? Do it. Follow Christ in all things. Keep digging into the Word – it’s really all we need and it guides us in all truth. Pray. Ask God for His wisdom and strength to do what’s right for your life. And keep your wise friends close.
⊗ Today above all days may be extra stressful for you. There’s election results and opinions abounding, skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers, and greater and greater divisions happening amongst friends. Know that it’s okay to turn off your TV and radio. In fact I suggest it. It’s okay to stop scrolling on social media. It’s also ok to unfollow and unfriend, to snooze and “lose”. I am. Put up a fence with a gate. Go outside and enjoy the warm weather today. May the peace of Christ rest upon you today and always. And me too.