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Boundaries on Boundaries

Our church fellowship group just finished going through Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, a book that helps people learn "when to say yes and how to say no to take control of your life."

This was my second time going through it, and I acquired some new insights this time around. The biggest being: I don't particularly care to be in control of my life. In fact, I don't think it's possible. Either I'm making decisions based on my anger and fear or I'm making decisions based on the spirit's leading. Either I'm a slave to the flesh or a slave to the Lord. Either I make my master the devil or God. I don't think anyone is ever the master of his or her life, despite what Mr. Henley claimed. ("I am master of my fate: I am captain of my soul.")

Boundaries gives biblical guidelines on how to protect ourselves, our time, and our things against negative influences. The book if full of concrete examples and practical, common-sense advice that can be followed by a Christian or non-Christian alike. Perhaps it was this that made me a little suspicious this time around. What's the point of having a relationships with Christ, if we then take control of our own lives and do it all ourselves?

Townsend and Cloud use several examples of when Christ established boundaries. They also give lists of what lies within our boundaries (our bodies, time, thoughts, feelings, etc.) and different ways of setting boundaries (saying no, physical removal, restrictions, etc.) All very practical and smart sort of stuff. But again, an interactive and ongoing conversational-relationship with Christ doesn't follow a grid work of rules and boundaries. It searches out God's wisdom in every situation. It asks God all day everyday, "Make me to walk in your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Show me your truths and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long." (Psalm 25:4-5 ESV)

I keep laughing at the thought of certain scenarios in the bible that seem to break all the boundary rules, like that story of the men lowering their friend through the roof of a house in order to reach Jesus. I think the principles in Boundaries would say, "These friends didn't respect personal property or personal space. Jesus should've recognized that his boundaries were being violated and said 'no.'"

Then there are all those foolish friends, a.k.a. disciples, that Jesus surrounded himself with who had horribly false opinions about who he was and what he was supposed to do. Jesus should've given those guys an ultimatum. Either respect me and who I am or be gone because I don't need to surround myself with people who have false opinions of me.

And let's not forget that totally boundary-less episode on the cross. Tell me how that wasn't a crossing of every physical, emotional, and mental boundary that Jesus had!

The bottom line is that when we're seeking the Lord in everything, He teaches us when and how to say yes or no. We don't base our judgements on our own wisdom or feelings or fears, but God's omniscient wisdom. For one Christian that might mean going to a town that's hostile to Christians. For another, not so.

Lead by the spirit, Paul knew it was time to go to Rome and be bound. Jesus knew it was time to go to Jerusalem and be crucified. David danced half-naked before the Lord. Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. Rebekah left home. Hebrews 11 has a great list of many other seemingly-harebrained things that God lead people to do. Most of these wouldn't fall into the good-boundary-setting category at all. But they all fall into the having-faith-in-the-Lord category.

Boundaries has a lot of great advice, but having correct boundaries isn't our goal in life. Neither is health or happiness for that matter. Those things are merely the byproducts of the main goal, which is God himself.

To read this sort of book and follow its advice without a conversational-relationship with Christ kinda feels like reading a manual on how to drive a Ferrari at Laguna Seca without saying a word to the Formula 1 racing driver sitting in the passenger seat . . . no, wait . . . he's in the driver's seat. I asked him there because I trusted him.


Very good! following the Holy Spirit's leading moment-by-moment is certianly the key to having correct boundaries!!
ShackelMom said…
Amen, and so much amen to your conclusions! It is so easy to take a human centric view of life and squeeze it into some scripture... I appreciate so much your seeing the bigger, God-focused picture! The picture is so much bigger, and the larger, "It's not about us" view can be very liberating!

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