When we were in Norway we hiked to the top of Mt. Floyen in Bergen. It was a wonderful hike, through woods with different vistas along the way. At the top there was a playground and a park that was the home of GOATS!
We were not at all expecting goats, so they made us smile. The woman in this picture, while smiling, was very surprised by her unexpected picnic partner!
It made me reflect on how we do with our boundaries. Obviously our goat friend had boundary issues, as did the woman in the photo. Here the woman is working to implement good boundaries with her goat friend.
As I reflected on the hike, I recognize the many boundaries that kept us safe. A well marked path. Fences. Signs. We need similar boundaries in our daily lives. While they may take more time to recognize, boundaries in our daily lives keep us not only physically safe, but emotionally and spiritually safe as well.
Scripture can help us find good boundaries. Think the ten commandments, Proverbs, or the guidelines on how we treat others. Scripture tells us what are good things for us to do and what are things that can bring us physical, emotional, or spiritual harm. God’s boundaries are good for all three!
For years we had an invisible fence for our dog. She wore a special collar that clicked when she got too close, and gave a little shock if she ignored it. Likewise, our feelings can often act as that collar in recognizing our boundaries and the boundaries of others. If we pay attention, our feelings can tell us when someone or something is encroaching on our boundaries. They can also tell us if we are anxious, which may cause us to cross others’ boundaries.
How do you do with boundaries? Either setting your own, or respecting someone else’s? When is a question caring and when is it crossing a boundary? When is something a favor and when is it an imposition? When is it being selfish and when is it healthy self-care? It can be really tough to find out how you do in crossing the boundaries of others. Consider asking a close friend how you do. Do you give unsolicited advice, help, or commentary? Do you talk to much and listen too little? Do you over stay your welcome at peoples’ homes, offices, or cubicles? If you aren’t sure, ask a loved one how you do with boundaries!
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Dt. 6:4-9, NRSV)
Drs. Henry Could and John Townsend have a great series of resources on Boundaries. Check them out for more information on this critical topic!
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Rev. Shannon Jordan is the pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Al. www.wpc-decatur.org