Posts Tagged ‘Boundaries’

Defending The Boundary Lines: Part 2

Continuing from previous post, taken from the book Boundaries.

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What does it mean in Galatians 6:7-8 when it says, ‘A man reaps what he sows.’? Well, if you work you get paid, if you go grocery shopping you get food, if you study you do well in school. On the flip side, if you eat junk you become unhealthy, if you spend your money you have none left, if you fall over you will hurt yourself. This what happens with consequences. Everything you do will have a consequence. It is the way God intended for life to function.

We teach this principle at the school where I am fortunate enough to work at. As part of the behaviour management plan, children are explicitly taught that each decision they make in their behaviour will render a consequence.  The choice is theirs and the power is in their hands, but whatever they chose they will reap what they have sown, e.g. a student doesn’t hand in her assignment, she will not get a mark and therefore will not pass.

The problem comes when someone interrupts the law of sowing and reaping. ‘Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path’ (Proverbs 15:10) and this is so true!  By interfering with this natural flow, you render the person powerless.

The Boundaries book states that this happens a lot with parents and children. Parents often nag, instead of allowing their children to reap the natural consequences of their behaviour. Parenting with love and limits, with warmth and consequences, produces confident children who have a sense of control over their lives.

Part of setting boundaries means that you must take responsibility for your choices as you are the only one making them.  No one can force you to do anything. In making your own choices, you are also taking responsibility for the consequences.

But if you are a Christian, is it right to still have boundaries?

You bet! Boundaries come from God and He has his own set of boundaries that He lets us know about. In the book Boundaries it says (in much better words than my own): God defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and he is responsible for himself. He defines and takes responsibility for his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes.

He also defines himself as separate from his creation and from us. He differentiates himself from others. He tells us who he is and who he is not. For example, he says that he is love and that he is not darkness (1 John 4:16; 1:6).

In addition, he has boundaries within the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one, but at the same time they are distinct persons with their own boundaries. Each one has his own personhood and responsibilities, as well as a connection and love for one another (John 17:24).

God also limits what he will allow in his yard. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behaviour. He guards his house and will not allow evil things to go on there. He invites people in who will love him, and he lets his love flow outward to them at the same time. The ‘gates’ of his boundaries open and close appropriately (from my last post).

In the same way he gave us his “likeness” (Gen. 1:26), he gave us personal responsibility within limits. He wants us to “rule and subdue” the earth and to be responsible stewards over the life he has given us. To do that, we need to develop boundaries like God’s.

Defending the Boundary Lines: Part 1

Learning to have boundaries is a hard thing for some people…and me.  I  have always struggled in this area of my life, and have been working extra hard in the art of saying “no” and understanding where my responsibilities and commitments need to stop.

I used to feel like I needed, or more appropriately ‘should’, do things for people when they asked.  No thought, just a straight out “yes!”. I wasn’t lying as I really was determined to do as they asked….but at what price? I would say yes even if I knew I was over committing myself and biting off more than I could chew.  I would say yes even if I knew I would suffer further down the track – time poor, lack of resources, emotional limits, etc.  If I said no, I felt as though I would be letting people down and being unreliable or ‘unchristian’.  Little did I know that the world would be able to function if I said no to a few things and got my priorities in order  🙂

One of the best life-changing books I will ever read is ‘Boundaries‘ by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  Talk about shining a floodlight on my life!

The first thing I learnt was that everyone is responsible for themselves.  Meaning we have property lines in our lives that we should be focussing on.  Boundaries define us.  They define what is me and what is not me.

The book gives a perfect example of this when a father is struggling with his son who is lacking responsibility: “it is as if your son is your neighbour who never mows his lawn. But, whenever you turn on your sprinkler system, the water falls on his lawn. Your grass is turning brown and drying, but Bill looks down at his green grass and thinks to himself, ‘My yard is doing fine.’  That is how your son’s life is. He doesn’t study, or plan, or work, yet he has a nice place to live, plenty of money, and all the rights of a family member who is doing his part.  If you would define the property lines a bit better, if you would fix the sprinkler system so that the water would fall on your lawn, and if he doesn’t water his own lawn, he would have to live in dirt. He might not like that after a while.’

The Bible clearly shows us that we are responsible to others and for ourselves. Galatians 6:2 ‘Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ’. Verse 5 continues, ‘each one should carry his own load.’ The Greek word for ‘burden’ means excess burdens or burdens that are so heavy that they weigh us down. The Greek word for ‘load’ means cargo, or daily toil. This is basically telling us that people may have ‘burdens’ that are too big for them to carry. They are lacking in strength, resources, or knowledge to carry it alone and they need help from others. We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves as it would crush us!  But we are expected to carry our own ‘load’.  These loads are like backpacks that are possible to carry as they just everyday things we need to do in our lives. Problems arise when people behave as though their boulders are daily loads and they refuse help, or as if their ‘daily loads’ are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.

Boundaries are crucial to everyone whether used properly or improperly. They help us to “guard our heart with all our diligence.” We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside; we need gates in our boundaries. Basically, boundaries help us keep in the good and keep the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt. 7:6) so that people will not steal them.

I have learnt over the past year to identify things that are damaging to me and need to be stopped, or when I have too much on my plate and the word ‘no’ should be my answer, or when my boulders are crushing me and I need to ask for help.  It is hard, but definitely worth it!

Defending the Boundary Lines: Part 2 – ‘A man reaps what he sows.’ (Galatians 6:7-8) and why it IS Christian to have boundaries!