Life without boundaries is absurd, disorderly and not as God intended. But this was something I had to learn the hard way.
I have a confession.
When I fell in love with Christ, I fell hard.
This was it! The love of my life…the clear solution to all my problems. Life from here on out was going to be glorious. The sky would split open and I expected to hear “hallelujah chorus” every step of the day.
I immediately signed up for every service opportunity. You’d find me at church whenever the doors swung open. I literally felt like by accepting Christ, “no” was taboo. The Christian thing to do was to say “yes” to everything and everyone that had good intentions.
I’m a smart woman. But somehow, I didn’t grasp that even time is limited; everyone only has 24 hours in a day. And it goes by quicker than I realized.
I remember picking up my children once from pre-school. My daughter proudly handed me her drawing – a piece of construction paper with blue crayon all over.
ME: “What is it, honey?”
MY DAUGHTER: “The world, mommy! Be sure to hang it up when we get home.”
After about a week of passing by her picture on the refrigerator – I had a revelation. My God! This is what my world looks like right now. One big messy blue streak on top of the other. And half of them ran off the page.
When God created everything, He created it with order and boundaries. Ones I clearly did not have in place in my life, especially, when I felt like I had to say “yes” to everything.
“But you can’t have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it. In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments” Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living.
It took me being outnumbered by two children, tackled by single motherhood, working 60-hour weeks and filling multiple volunteer positions in the church to learn a valuable lesson. I could not do it all. Harder yet, God did not want me to.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Genesis 1:1-5)
Genesis describes God’s intentionality when it comes to creation. You don’t find fish in the air or birds in the sea. But my world was certainly out of order.
In fact, in the midst of paradise, God created mankind with boundaries.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
When I stepped outside of God’s boundaries, I left myself susceptible to pains that could’ve been avoided. I was weakest when it came to my relationships.
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership” Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When to Say Yes and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.
This book shed light on my awful habit of absorbing other people’s troubles. I’d make it my duty to solve problems that weren’t mine. What I didn’t realize was how this tendency would absolve them of any responsibility. It would usually leave them worse off and they’d often become repeat offended.
The worst part? The most negative people seemed to be drawn to this character
flaw of mine…and not in a good way. I was a magnet for narcissists, liars and
abusers. Just picture the serpent in the garden from Genesis 2, luring Eve to
go against God, and against the command He had given her.
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that evil attracts us to step out of bounds with God.
As a former people-pleaser, I constantly put myself in unhealthy situations where I allowed others to have control over my schedule, emotions, space, money, possessions, etc. I literally overextended myself to the point that there wasn’t anything left. It affected my children; my health worsened; and my relationship with God suffered because of it.
There came a point where I had to distance myself, regroup, reprioritize and build healthy fences around what was mine to keep...and what had to go. To my surprise everything improved because of it. The relationships I kept were enriched and the ones I had to detach myself from were not missed.
Decluttering the messes in my life gave me the energy I needed to focus on what was most important. Now boundaries excite me! Not only do I love to set them – I love to set the expectations of them. It’s like stating the rules before playing a game.
It has helped me avoid disappointment (with others and myself) and has freed me up to deepen my relationship with God.
“The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you” Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living.
Before I was consumed by people and their problems and it left little, if anything, for God and family. Now I am consumed by God and focus on my attention on my health and my family. Besides, what use could I be to anyone by killing myself with an unfeasible schedule and standards?
If you’re like the old me, I pray you learn this principle and take a stand. If you’re tired of
getting walked on, it’s time to get off the floor. God created boundaries. They’re biblical.
We suffer when we operate without them and can cause collateral damage in the process.
This important life skill isn’t taught in school, but it is all-too-important not to learn and teach to our children.
Let’s discuss this:
In what areas of your life (work, home, ministry, etc.) can you improve your boundaries and how?
How can boundaries help you be a better steward of your time and grow spiritually?
Take time to identify people in your life that are unwilling to respect your boundaries. How can you approach them to better your relationship?
How can boundaries better your relationship with God?
Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living, Shauna Niequist.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud.
Boundary Power: How I Treat You and How I Let You Treat Me, Mike O'Neil and Charles Newbold
Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud