By KARISA MOORE
Freedom in Boundaries
My dog is a sweet, white fluff ball that keeps us laughing until she thinks another dog is approaching her possessions—namely us—then she turns into a vicious, small attack dog. To break this bondage of fear within her, we are having to retrain our own behaviors and set boundaries. She is a lap dog who, for her own wellbeing, can no longer jump up on our level.
Maggie equates our love and affection with position over us. The truth is she is our pet. She cannot roam free in our personal space; the sleeping quarters, where we eat, and furniture is off limits. The boundaries we are setting are very unnerving for her. She snorts at us when we get up and turn our back to her in response to her misbehaviors. But when she calms, we play and praise her. Boundaries help her recognize she is secure at her position of pet. All this retraining is difficult, and from the outside may look silly. But, when you think of her guarding behavior as a life and death situation, the little inconvenience becomes a necessity. If Maggie bares her teeth at the wrong dog, she’s done. She loses, not only her possessions, but her life.
Boundaries are just as necessary in human relationships. Friends, family, and our spouse thrive through knowing whose we are and what we stand for. Parents begin setting boundaries from the moment we enter the world. Yes, we get to dictate some of our life by crying and letting those who love us know our needs, but we are dependent upon their response to those needs. Where our parents end and we begin is a boundary. As we discover the world, we often put ourselves in danger and therefore, our parents who love us discipline and teach us what is safe and unsafe. We can choose to accept those boundaries or put ourselves in harm’s way by stepping out of their loving limits.
For some of us, boundaries become a jumbled mess because of the brokenness and sinfulness of others. My boundaries were violated repeatedly from an early age, so I had a very warped perspective on setting limits. I waffled between keeping my distance and letting others walk all over me. I had no idea how to be a friend, or what a healthy relationship looked like because I hadn’t really experience one.
Healthy boundaries expanded my world, taught me discernment, and introduced me to godly men and women who valued me and brought out the best in my character. Boundaries encourage healthy risks. As a result of submitting to God’s boundaries, I raised my son as a single mom, went back to school and got my writing degree, met and made incredible friends and risked my heart to meet my now husband of sixteen years. Boundaries did not crush my identity nor limit the adventure I live; they heightened them.
Setting boundaries takes an openness to truth, practice, mistakes, trying again, and faithful men and women teaching and revealing our sinful nature. But, what a delight to learn to move freely within God’s love. God sets limits to protect us, guide us, and help us to be in right relationship with Him. He knows how easily we are tempted to trade His love for idols. Idols seem convenient, comfortable, and satisfying until we start to sacrifice our lives for them. We realize we are trapped slaves, and crushed by unending boundaries. You will never measure up. No one loves you. You are a failure. You are not enough. There is no relief from the taskmaster of self-destruction. We become like Maggie, a slave to our fear and putting ourselves in danger because we don’t know whose we are. God’s boundaries are for us and not against us. He is trying to give us a full, vibrant life.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Jesus knew his boundaries. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Ephesians 2:5-8). He was secure in His identity. He didn’t need anyone to tell Him He was God. He knew His purpose was to serve and redeem creation and He followed through on the cross for our benefit.
Your boundaries may have been violated, you may not know how to develop healthy boundaries, but God gives us a safe place and reliable men and women to practice with. Don’t give up. Boundaries begin to take shape when you know whose you are and your purpose, and then follow through. Evaluate your relationships. Are you building others up through your actions (Philippians 2:5-8) or just going with the crowd? Do your relationships spur you on towards love and good deeds or tempt you to move away from what is right? Jesus set the example of what it is to know, and live life to the fullest within God-given boundaries. The reward is glorifying God and redemption not only for you, but for all mankind (Philippians 2:9-11; James 4:1-12; Hebrews 10:24-25).
PRAYER Father, teach me your ways. Secure me in my identity so that I can recognize the enemy’s attack and stand firm. Develop boundaries in my friendships so we can support one another and help each other grow in faith. Help me to open up the tender, vulnerable places in my spirit to Your gentle, healing hand. Amen
Karisa Moore speaks on the unspeakable as a result of her oldest son’s suicide. She embraces life alongside her husband and two living children. She loves long hikes, photography and great stories. Karisa is the author of Broken Butterflies: Emerging Through Grief, A Suicide Survivor’s Poetic Journal, blogger at http://turningthepageonsuicid.org. She would love to hear your story at email@example.com.
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