When Are Boundaries Good?

DSC_0057Driving after Hurricane Irma proved tricky.

The lack of street lights or traffic signals left everyone accountable for following the rules of the road without directions for when to stop, go or turn. Left turns especially created challenges because of timing. Which side should turn when? Should we turn together as a traffic light would indicate? Some folks decided they alone owned the road and made their own rules.

Accidents escalated.

City officials wisely set a curfew at 8 p.m. but many balked at the restriction, feeling inhibited by the temporary law. They seemed to believe the guidelines were set to hinder life rather than protect it. But without lights, no one could see to safely navigate around other cars or obstacles in the road especially through intersections.

One night while attempting to get to a friend’s house as dark closed in, I completely understood the reason for the curfew. The roads weren’t safe. My heart raced as I tried to navigate the turns and intersections still without power. I narrowly missed a tree in my lane. It was only a few minutes after curfew when I arrived, but that experience was enough to convince me I would never cut it that close again.

Those boundaries were created for our safety and protection not simply for the sake of the ones setting the rules to control us.

The incident reminded me of God’s commandments.

God gave us laws to create an environment for a good life. He created commandments for us to benefit us. His rules in the Bible help us know healthy things to eat, how to handle disease and environmental issues and how to deal with relationships.

His goal was to protect us and those around us out of his love for us.

Just as our Florida lawmakers didn’t sit around trying to think up laws to frustrate us after the disaster, neither did God attempt to come up with rules to control us. Rather, they both show a concern for our well-being.

In the same way, we set boundaries in everyday life.

Whether the boundary consists of keeping a child safe from oncoming cars or keeping ourselves safe from unhealthy communication or actions in a relationship, protecting ourselves and our loved ones is a positive thing.

Consider the ten commandments in light of this idea: what if God gave them not to shame us, but to help us? Like a promise to us or a covenant is what he calls it. What if we read Exodus 20:1-17 like this:

Remember that I made you and I love you. I proved this by rescuing you from people who made you slaves and treated you badly. (Historically, God is talking about leading the Israelites out of Egypt, but he does the same for us. See Exodus chapters 1-19)

Because of this:

  1. Turn to ME for help. No other god can do what I can do so it won’t help you to think there is one that can. (I Kings 18:21-39)
  2. Don’t make a god out of something thinking it will do something for you. Things that come from the earth and sky are created by me; they have no power in themselves. They don’t love you jealously like I do, as a groom loves his bride. It will not do you any good to worship (spend your time with) these idols, and it will break my heart because I really love you. If you make idols (gods), it will show me that you hate me and will cause your life and your future children’s lives to get messed up. I only want good for you because I love you, so sometimes I may discipline you to help you make choices that will bring you good. I would love it if you loved me too. (Hebrews 12:5-6)
  3. Be careful how you use my name. If you use it carelessly or as a word to swear with, you show your disrespect and disregard for me. Remember who I am. I am the Lord your God who loves you. (James 5:12)

Benefits for Us

  1. If you are respectful to your parents, you will show that you respect me. I’ve given them to you for your good and if they do not always do right or even good things for you, they must answer to me. Your job is to honor them. If you do, things will go well for you. (Ephesians 6:1-3)
  2. Rest on the seventh day after working hard the other six days. Your bodies and minds need rest and will work so much better if you let them have a break. You will be more creative and productive too! Plus, if you rest, it lets other people who serve you in various ways rest too. That seventh day should be great for you and me to spend together and begin your week well. It’s the same thing I did when I created the world so I know what I’m talking about. (Genesis 2:2)

Benefits for Others

  1. Don’t plan on killing someone even in your mind. I made people and I love everyone. People are valuable so please don’t hurt them. (Psalm 139:13-16)
  2. Recognize that marriage is a wonderful thing and should be honored and respected. Being faithful and loyal to the person someone is married to will bring them good if they honor their covenant even when it is hard. Respect the marriages of other people by encouraging them to be faithful to their spouse too. (Psalm 15:2-4)
  3. Respect others’ belongings. Don’t take something that doesn’t belong to you. Ask before you use something and return it promptly and in good condition when you are done. (Ephesians 4:28)
  4. Speak only the truth about others and situations they are involved in. Help others by being honest. (Ephesians 4:15)
  5. Be grateful for and content with what you have. Don’t keep looking at someone else’s things or abilities and want them for yourself. (James 4:1-3)

Remember that I love you because I made you and you are special to me. If you love me, like I love you and love other people like you love me and yourself, you will be able to follow these guidelines. (Matthew 22:37-40)

But when you do mess up, Jesus has you covered. It’s all good.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned…”  John 3:16-18a

Maybe it’s time to think differently about boundaries.

What is something intended to bring us good rather than harm that we’ve viewed as bad, restrictive or controlling? Are there boundaries you need to set in your life for the good of yourself or someone you love? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Fantasy vs. Reality

Oh, what a dangerous place is the world of fantasy! 

Question: Does online dating make us susceptible to fantasy? We interact with people we don’t know, don’t see and have no way of watching in everyday life. We stake a relationship and perhaps our life on the profile and email communications of a complete stranger! Some people call that crazy. I’ve been called desperate. Remaining grounded in reality is pretty imperative.

Once during my online dating process, a man and I sent instant messages back and forth for a couple of hours in flirtatious banter. We had so much fun that we carried further on the phone for a while. I felt deep down that I had become too caught up in the exchange, but I ignored those little niggling warning signs. However, when he repeatedly called my house late at night, only to hang up mysteriously, I realized that my perception (fantasy) of the situation didn’t match the reality of it. Oops! How easily we can create something in our minds (and hearts) that doesn’t actually exist as we imagine it.

In one situation, I communicated with someone for weeks and began to imagine him as the person God had in mind for me. I liked him and enjoyed chatting with him. However, one night the subject of his wife somehow slipped into the conversation (thank you Lord!). WIFE?? Well, nearly an ex-wife, separated, but not yet divorced…you know the story. Not a story I wanted to continue.

So how do we guard our hearts and minds to stay in the reality of the moment and not let them gallivant away into fantasies of the future?

First, watch where we take little steps over the lines or boundaries that exist for our good. Each person has to determine what is best for them based on God’s leading. One little toe over a line may seem like no big deal, but after a few toes have crossed, we’ve taken a whole step and soon we’re running into trouble.

Deciding ahead of time what boundaries to create can be helpful. I had no idea about this initially, and I confess to “winging it” as I went along. At least my best friend improvised with me. Certain topics, words and attitudes simply didn’t fit within our boundary lines. When in doubt, we checked with each other and leaders at church. Once, after a few emails with one guy left me feeling uncomfortable, I showed our correspondence to a trusted couple at church and inquired after a male perspective. He confirmed that the intentions of that suitor were not honorable. I’m so glad I asked!

It’s also best to develop friendship while keeping in constant contact with the Lord about what he has in mind. Even with the first email from my husband, I knew right away that he was from God, but I kept pulling back on the reins of my heart and checking in with the Lord and my best friends to be sure. Clarity and truth can be sobering so it helps to keep relationships “public” with at least a couple of friends we trust who won’t just feed a fantasy. I can be ruined in a split second by sin – one poor choice can destroy everything that is truly important to me.

Accountability ushers in reality and keeps fantasy at bay.

If you can’t tell at least a couple of people about a relationship, or feel the need or desire to keep things “private” or “secret,” you may be headed for dangerous waters.

One of the keys for me? Looking for someone who loves Jesus as much as I do and holds the same perspective on God, dating, marriage and sex. Not much fantasy in that.