Boundaries for a Better Life

Last week, we talked about God’s boundaries. How He’s put boundaries in creation, like the sun rises and sets following the same path every day (but how un-boring is every sunset?!), or how He restricted the waters to remain in their boundaries, after He allowed them to flood the earth and destroy man.

We’ve discussed how God’s boundaries for man include how man can come into His presence by no other way but His Son. And at the end of all time, His boundaries will be enforced.

Yet—God allows man to choose.
Man does not have to honor God’s boundaries, now.
Even in man’s ability to choose, God still puts boundaries on how much man can sin. And consequences—blessings or cursings, for those choices.
And God will, at the end of time, be ultimately obeyed—willingly or forcefully.

God has given His laws to help man live together peacefully. 
But knowing how man doesn’t choose the best, God placed in those laws what to do when peace isn’t possible.
Those are the boundaries.

As moms, we sometimes get the false expectation we can make all our children happy, responsible citizens and God-fearing adults.
And yes, we are to train our children to know and obey God.
But we cannot make them choose what is best (though we’d like to.)

God didn’t make Adam and Eve choose what is best either.
That didn’t make God a bad parent. 
Nor did He do something wrong.
Likewise, I’m not a bad parent, because my child chooses poorly.
(I’m talking to myself on this one.)
In fact, when God gave the law, He gave consequences for a child who chose not to obey his parents. He was to be taken outside the camp and stoned. (Not his parents, just the child.). 

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard. Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. Deuteronomy 21:18-21.

To bring a child to that severe consequence, clear boundaries had to be made and broken.
That’s how we as humans operate and stay within the whelm of morality and common respect.

We come to a four-way stop while driving. We stop. 
If we arrive at the same time as another, we give way to the person on the right.
It’s called road courtesy.

If an ambulance has his siren and lights on, we pull over (or speaking to my son, who’s an EMT, most cars now don’t pull over and stop).
Our boundaries for road etiquette haven’t changed. 
People have become more self-absorbed and unmannerly. (Perhaps not enough stonings?)
But that doesn’t mean the boundaries have changed.
Perhaps the consequences are not hard enough.
Or they desire to do what they want regardless of the consequences.

When we purchase groceries, we must wait our turn.
If someone cuts the line, he is rude.

All are examples of boundaries expected by man for each other. 
Some are customs, established by society.
Many are from the Law and established by God for man’s protection.
When those boundaries aren’t upheld, there’s a consequence. 
When both cars demand their own way, there’s an accident.
Or the ambulance doesn’t save that life they transport, because he slowed down for those cars that wouldn’t give way.

Even in our homes we have boundaries.
These help us operate together safely, efficiently, and responsibly.
When Joey and I received marital counseling, the pastor had us list everything we expected the other to do—big or small.
Joey expects his dinner when he returns from home. That requires me to re-arrange my day to make sure dinner is ready when he comes home.

It was hard to imagine all the expectations we may have with each other before we were married.
That’s where communication is essential to give updates on those expectations as they change or develop over our lives together.

But what kind of boundaries do we have that encourage and help make that possible?
Song of Solomon 2:15 (is it significant that it comes from a book about love?) tells us,
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards, for our vineyard is in bloom.

Foxes are associated in the Old Testament with their destructive tendencies to vineyards.
In Ancient New Eastern love literature, it was common to use wild animals to symbolize potential problems which could separate lovers and destroy their love.
Foxes here were used to represent problems that would hinder marriage from being fruitful.

In other words, we both should put us fences to keep danger from interfering with our relationship.
Sometimes those foxes come from without.
Joey doesn’t drive alone or be with another woman. He puts up hedges of protection around him.
Other times it’s inside, we must guard our thoughts. As women, we are good about listing all our husbands’ faults.
That opens the gate for discontent and dissatisfaction with our husband. Nothing he does is right.
That boundary of thankfulness and gratefulness has been violated.
If continued that destructive thinking will produce reasons for ending the relationship. After all, isn’t it toxic or abusive?

We must be careful in our boundary setting not to put so many restrictions that a person would have to be perfect to pass.
Also, if we are comparing our husband with someone else, we may make boundaries or wishes so only a different man could fulfill the boundary
—not the man we married. This too is wrong.

We don’t set up boundaries to bring our happiness.
We have boundaries to encourage a deeper relationship, heighten trust, build responsibility and growth.

That’s for all involved—ourselves included.
If the husband meets his wife’s needs through an established or communicated boundary, they grow together. It encourages both.

Whereas, if a boundary suggested by one is ignored by the spouse, a feeling of apathy or being unloved is created.
After all, if it's important enough for one to suggest, it is essential for both to be interested, no matter how much the other feels it is irrelevant.
When a spouse ignores the boundary, considering it needless, a wall builds between them. 
Trust is questioned. The relationship suffers.

I’ve recently read the book, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes by Lysa Terkeurst.
She struggles candidly with her relationship with her husband.
By prayer and seeking counselors’ help, she finally breaks from her husband.
She describes the divorce as painfully hard, but with peace. 
I am not advocating divorce, nor was she. Divorce is hated by God. 
“For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. Malachi 2:16.

But the author finds peace leaving a relationship where she felt boundaries were ignored and pressures for her to change was corrupting who she was.
"Am I going crazy?"
"Did I just see him do that, but he blames me?"
Those questions play into manipulation and abuse. 
With today’s emphasis on toxic relationships and abusive control, I don’t know how to critic those considerations objectively.
The Bible is pretty clear—God hates divorce. But for the hardness of man’s heart, He allows it in the case of adultery. 
But must a spouse remain in an abusive relationship?
(I've met some abusive people and I didn't have to live with them! Are there just more of them today?)
For physical abuse it seems obvious—run to safety and take the kids.
But…emotional abuse? Psychological abuse? By whose definition?
I don’t have good answers or clear formulas.
Just lot of questions.
Makes waiting on God and asking good Christian counselors for guidance to work through those troubling waters essential.
The book on boundaries was helpful with lists to consider and evaluate.

Not only couples but families must have boundaries or rules, and sometimes they create problems that are hard to enforce.
When our boys were small, they were expected to do the dishes, clean up their own messes, and obey our rules.
When they became teenagers, some of those rules were no longer needed. 

We didn’t enforce any curfew. Whenever the boys went out in the evening, it was at least an hour to get anywhere. They’d be home late. But they told us where they were going and with whom. And we could trust them. Because they had proved trustworthy in the little things.

Little things that show responsibility. 

But our rules were obeyed. After all, they still lived in our house. 
It was courtesy to tell me where they were going and how long they expected to be gone—because I cared.
Sometimes they forgot. But I trusted them.

Trust is essential for any relationship.
If trust isn’t there, communication is a farce.
Without trust in communication, I cannot believe by just asking, I must verify.
To verify everything is exhausting.
That stresses the relationship.

Without trust there is no responsibility.
Instead of beginning school at 8 am every day, like our rule, I must waken one son every day.
He cares not for our rules. 
Why do I bother? 
Because I do care. And I am responsible for his schooling.
I’ve explained multiple times why school must begin at 8. 
It’s for his discipline and structure.
These are daily boundaries broken—every day.
What is my recourse?
Normal consequences don’t bring change.
Now getting up at 8 every day, doesn’t seem such a big thing
Except that it is every day.
But this is not the only rule that is ignored.
Just an indicator of deeper issues.
Disrespect shown for many of our rules.

Sometimes I feel more grace should be given, after all, drugs did effect his brain formation.
But mentally challenged children know right and wrong.
My son has difficulty realizing consequences and evaluating time, but he has deceived us and broken our rules consistently. 
That isn’t a mistake.
Nor an inability to be able to obey.
That’s a choice, each time.
It’s a habit.
This is disobedience.
And deception.
Consequences don't shake or change him.
We pray for wisdom for stronger consequences and strength to enforce them. (Too many times, I am just done.)
This is a spiritual condition, not a mental disability.

My mom provided me with the proper response to my hesitancy with his “disability.” 
When my mom fell and broke her hip. She refused to receive physical therapy.
My sister could not bring her home without it.
My mom's choice was made as a patient with dementia.
She had to live with her decision, even though she couldn’t coherently make a good choice.
Her choice required her to go to the nursing home.

Likewise, our son with disability has given us no other choice.
Do we want to ignore his wrong? Sometimes.
But the disrespect, blatant, daily, reminds us he cares not for our boundaries nor for us. 
Why does he continue to live with us?
He, himself, has informed us we cannot make him leave; he’s not 18.
(Now how would he know that?) 
Another form of disdain.
We wait for that moment. 
With dread.
With prayer we can do what is right.
Will need for God’s strength.
Still praying he repents.
Could I believe him, if he did?
The consequence of the world will be harder than he can imagine, though we know and weep.
The world doesn't give grace.
Maybe that's what he needs to see his need?
Until then, it's strength for this day alone.
And prayer for wisdom...for repentance....for strength. 

Give clarity.
When respected, strengthens relationships.
Unites forces.
But divides those who disdain them.
What God asks us to do, He enables us to complete.
His strength will be enough.
And He gives peace, a sure indicator of His presence and His blessing.

Displaying 1 comment

I have a feeling that this was a hard article to write, I can just feel all that you have been going through. And it's SO hard!!! I see it in my own two adopted grandchildren with the same problem, and it's hard! Only God gets us through, but we still have so many questions, so many decisions. Thanks for sharing, God bless you and Joey and your family

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               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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