I have just started a journey of learning about boundaries especially in regards to relationships and expectations that people place on each other. Boundaries are there to protect us—our time, our health, our finances, and without them, relationships are actually not healthy.
The question is though—what does it look like to love like Jesus, going the extra mile and being full of grace and forgiveness, but also to not be walked all over?
Like many people I have just learnt the hard way that if you don’t enforce personal boundaries you can sometimes be taken advantage of. You can jeopardise an important area of your life, such as your finances, in fear of your relationship with someone.
The framework of love
We are called to live in a framework of love not fear. Unfortunately, families and even spouses can be the people we need to enforce boundaries with the most. They are the closest to home and therefore the most ‘touchy’ and difficult ones to courageously say what we are willing and not willing to do.
A journey in boundaries is a journey in maturity and we are called to become mature adult believers in Christ (1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 11 and Hebrews chapter 5 verses 12-14). Boundaries require us to do some personal growth as well, because we need to respect and adhere to other people’s boundaries as much as creating and enforcing our own healthy boundaries.
This means I shouldn’t expect anyone else to clean up after me (a practical example); I should push my own wheelbarrow spiritually digging into God’s word and presence myself without someone driving me; and I should be responsible for my own actions. An area that I am not yet great in is finances and here again maturity requires me to put healthy boundaries in place so that I can give as God requires and look after my own needs.
Learning from Jesus’ boundaries
Jesus set boundaries with his time for his own health and spiritual wellbeing. He knew what he needed and enforced his alone times in prayer with his heavenly Father even when his ministry was busy and full of need. He directed his disciples in Matthew chapter 26 verse 36 to sit and wait while he prayed on the night of his betrayal because he knew he would need God’s divine strength to endure what was before him with the cross.
Another example is when he saw that a boundary was broken with the Holy Temple having been turned into a marketplace—and what did he do? He overturned the tables and declared a boundary that buying and selling was not acceptable in the Temple and declared it to be a house of and for prayer only. (Matthew chapter 21 verse 12.) After all Jesus was about His Father’s business and a man after His Father’s heart and he adhered to and enforced boundaries which would glorify the Lord.
So I don’t have all the answers yet, but I think we need to think about the kind of fruit our decisions will produce and what will ultimately bring glory to the King of Kings. If the fruit of a decision is substantial financial debt, then we probably missed the mark even if our heart was in good intent. If the fruit of a decision is exhaustion, then we probably helped someone out when we didn’t have the energy to pour out and maybe it wasn’t Gods wisdom for us to help in that particular time and scenario.
This is why prayer is so important as a continual ‘checking in’ form of communication with the Father who is the fount of all wisdom. We also need to believe in God’s sovereignty here in that He is able to help everyone and we are not his only point of call.
Growing in maturity
What I am saying is that we need to become sharper—iron sharpens iron (Proverbs chapter 27 verse 17) and we need to grow in maturity and not hide behind excuses. We need to grow in wisdom—boundaries grow healthy relationships and God is all about relationships and love.
Something I am realising is that we need to be discerning and quick to recognise manipulation and control when we see it too. People nearest and dearest to us can be operating out of a spirit of control or manipulation without even knowing it—and that is why we need to discern whether opportunities and even offers of gifts are from the Father or whether they come with ‘hooks’ and will ultimately not bless us like God would intend.
This to me just highlights our need for God and our need to let him search our hearts as in Psalm 51 because I want to be operating out of the right spirit in my heart and producing good fruit in my life.
I even wonder if as a society we were better at boundaries and respecting them, whether people would respect their bodies more and not get into situations of overwork, health stress, putting work over family/children, financial debt and strain and breakdown of families/relationships. For God says our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit and calls us to His ways and his priorities.
Makes you think – are we revering God or falling into the trap of pleasing man with our decisions and priorities? All I know so far is that boundaries are healthy and help keep us in balance; are essential in our important relationships and seem to be something that our wise God would encourage.
Liana Monaghan is a trained teacher working as a nanny fulltime and a songwriter/ singer. She is working towards her dream of releasing her first album in the next couple of years.
Liana Monaghan's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/liana-monaghan.html
Liana is a passionate and creative soul, living in South Australia and married to her artist husband of 12 years, Justin. Liana is an early childhood educator and also writes, sings, occasionally dances, loves nature, is a psalmist and runs a women's ministry.