Boundaries

I’ve been reading the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It is such a good book that I am just devouring it.

I had some time last night in the garden all by myself, weeding, just me and my thoughts. The kids were in bed. Husband was inside. The dogs were outside with me, but being quiet. I had some time to just sit and think and process and integrate everything I have been reading. It was a really good time.

I realized, though, that I have some serious boundary issues. I say yes to everything. If anyone has an idea or a need, I’m game. Even if initially I think, “no, I’d rather not” or “that’s probably not a good idea”, ultimately, I have an extremely hard time saying no or backing out. It’s only once I’ve completely overwhelmed myself that I am finally able to cut through the clutter and not without a LOT of thinking and consideration and, generally, talking to someone else to help me to finally make the decision.

What I have learned from this book is that, in Boundary terms, I am what they call a compliant. I comply with everyone’s wishes and desires, regardless of my own thoughts and feelings. And often, I don’t really even know what my own thoughts and feelings on a subject are. If you’ve ever seen Runaway Bride, I don’t know what kind of eggs I like. I like everybody else’s eggs.

So as this epiphany struck me last night, I realized that I need to take a couple steps.

  1. I need to back out of a not-yet-started commitment.
  2. I need to decline a particular leadership position in a group I’m in.
  3. I need to do more reading to understand more about how I ended up like this and what I can do to try to establish, maintain, and defend my boundaries.

Last night, I declined the leadership position and offered myself up for a different one that I believe would suit me better. The hard thing about setting and enforcing a boundary as a compliant is the intense anxiety one feels waiting for the response. And man, it is intense. Physically, my stomach was in knots, my throat was aching, and I was nearly in tears. Just from the anxiety.

In my head, I knew that it wasn’t a big deal. No one was going to get angry or be disappointed, and heck, they’d probably even let me stay in the group. The logic was there, but it had absolutely no bearing on my emotional state. I had to force myself to actually hit send on the message. I sat there, contemplating, waiting, watching, hearing that tiny voice say ‘Is it really such a big deal? You could do it and not bother everyone else. After all, you already said you’d do it. What an inconvenience for everyone to have to now fill this spot.’

As I listened to my inner voice bully me, I knew I had to do it. I had to take control of this boundary. After all, Jesus promises LIFE. He wants us to do things that are life-giving, not life-sucking. To give and serve cheerfully as we have set our minds to do, not because we feel we must. Not because we feel obligated. Not because we feel bullied by our inner selves.

So I did it. And you know what? Everyone was completely supportive. Exactly as my logical mind said. Nothing like my anxiety said.

But that’s not the end of the story. That is usually where the story ends, isn’t it? Happily ever after.

It’s not true. Today, I am still suffering emotionally. I am owly. I have a short temper. I am on edge. I still feel the intense weight of that decision. I can’t help but feel like I’ve let all these people down. I still feel the anxiety in the pit of my stomach. That little voice is asking me if everyone was just being nice. It’s asking when their true feelings will come out, how long it will take for them to push me out. I’m tempted to rescind my decline. Like REALLY tempted.

You see, boundaries aren’t easy to set. They aren’t easy to even identify sometimes. But they are important. Boundaries are what keep us healthy as individuals. We MUST have them.

The next section I need to re-read (I re-read the compliant section last night) is how boundaries are formed. I remember the authors said that our ability or inability to set our own and respect the boundaries of others are formed very early in life. How we were parented. How we were responded to by them. How we were disciplined. When we were disciplined. All the things that happened in a time that we won’t have actual memories of do a lot to shape our sense of ourselves and our ability to relate to ourselves and others.

I don’t remember any more than that from my first read-through, but it sure informs my own parenting. My own kids are in a time of their lives that they likely won’t have any actual memories of, but these are the years that will form their sense of self, their ability to create boundaries, their ability to interact with the world.

It has taken me 30 years to realize this. I once saw a pastor for counseling and I think he was the one who gave me this book, 12 or 13 years ago. It has sat on my shelf, unread, all that time. Unfortunately, I simply wasn’t ready emotionally at that time to grow in the way I needed to. How much heartache would have been saved! I can’t change the past, though. I can, however, begin to understand how my past has shaped my present and informs my future.

I have a feeling I have a lot of anxious conversations and owly days ahead. I have a lot of self-discovery to do, a lot of growing. Lord help me survive this because I cannot do it on my own. I want to be mature and free and feel good about my boundaries, but I’m not there yet. Oh, do I have a long way to go. I will need God by my side every step of the way and fortunately for me, this is precisely his area. For when I am weak, he is strong.

We must do better

I just saw in a local newspaper this article about a church hiring a married, openly gay pastor. Well, I actually saw it in my facebook news feed first and lately, with websites so full of ads they barely load, I have found I get a really good feel for the article based on the comments section. So now, many times, I no longer actually open the article and read (especially if it’s just clickbait), I just read the comments.

Now, I’m sure you can imagine exactly the kinds of comments that were there. More predictable than a sleazy romance novel. However, even with the absurd predictability of mud-slinging and hate speech from both sides of the aisle, I saw a comment that really got me thinking.

‘I think I’ll actually join the church again now.’

Join the church again now. What does that even mean?

Does that mean they will walk in the doors? Sit in a seat? Participate? Serve others? Love people? Seek Christ?

Because the truth is, joining the church has nothing to do with a relationship with Jesus Christ. And that’s what we seek, isn’t it? That void in our souls we try to fill with careers and relationships and shoes and men and women and chips and dogs and worthy causes and boats and drugs and vacation homes and sex and travel and bigger houses?

Friends, we have to do better.

We have to do a better job of preaching Christ to the world. Christ as he is. Not as we twist him so he fits into our worldview. Not as we distort the words of the Bible to fit the popular cultural agenda. As. He. Is.

People leave the church because they never experienced Christ. They experienced human religion. They experienced human agendas. They experienced fake community.

Let me tell you a little secret.

Jesus was not a liberal, he was radical.
Jesus did not advocate for socialism, he advocated for community.
Jesus did not condone sinful living, he offered the way to life.
Jesus did not sit quietly while people perverted God’s word, he challenged them.

Jesus questioned and challenged meaningless religious institutions. He challenged people to live to a higher standard. He challenged people to be righteous in private (Matthew 6) and not just out in public. The law said ‘do not commit adultery’ and Jesus said ‘don’t even look at a woman (or man) lustfully. (Matthew 5:27-28)’ Jesus said don’t even look. He said ‘if someone forces you to go a mile, walk two. If he demands your coat, give him your shirt too.(Matthew 5:41-48)’

Jesus did not come to earth to offer the sad, pathetic, and weak version of Christianity we know today in America. The version that makes people think it’s okay to walk away because they didn’t get their choice of carpet. The version that casts out people who are smelly. Or divorced. Or homeless. Or poor. The version that celebrates fat wallets but not a life fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

We maybe drive to church if it’s not too far and as long as the seats are comfortable and the music is nice, but not too loud, and we get ‘our seat’. We’ll participate as long as it doesn’t make us uncomfortable or challenge us. We’ll consider serving if it’s not inconvenient and and if it is, we just don’t show up. We have no problem putting other people in a bind when we don’t show up and don’t let them know. We like and praise the pastor if he makes us feel good but try to kick him out if he challenges us or steps on our toes or makes bold, biblical statements.

Friends, we have to do better.

This is not what the first disciples died for. This is not what people for centuries have risked their lives for. This is not what people hid and translated the Bible into common languages and were tortured and killed for.

Jesus said ‘Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many walk down it, but small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14).’

What are we willing to do to help more people find the way to life? Jesus is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6) and he comes to give us life to the full (John 10:10). Are we willing to sit back and watch people walk down the road of destruction or are we willing to do what it takes to try to reach out? Are we willing to lose friendships over it? Are we willing to speak boldly? Are we willing to be inconvenienced to serve? Are we willing to give up our ENTIRE lives to Christ? Are we willing to build margin into our lives and our bank accounts so we can be the hands and feet of Jesus when called?

Friends, this is why we are here.

We are not here to just join a church or leave a church because we got mad. We are meant to dig in, to read, to study, to fellowship together. Joining a church is meaningless. Living a life of faith in full view of everyone who knows us is our purpose, our calling. I hear people always trying to figure out the meaning of life or trying to discern their calling. Your calling, friend, is to point and lead others toward Christ wherever you are.

My 30 30s

It is already halfway through 2016! Can you believe it??

I have mentioned a couple times now my 30 30s, but have never managed to find the time to explain what that is, so I am going to introduce the project and do the halfway point recap.

My 30 30s is a challenge I set for myself at the beginning of the year because I turned 30 this year, just a few weeks ago, actually. I have 30 different categories somehow related to the number 30. For example, running 30 consecutive miles or doing 30 strength workouts, taking my dogs for 30 walks, taking my kids to the part 30 times, writing 30 pages of a novel, etc.

I have two items complete already, which is pretty cool. I’ve read 30 stories to Mae from her Children’s Bible and written 30 pages of a novel.

I have four categories with nothing in them yet. One is racing 30 miles, I haven’t raced yet this year. Another is my 30 consecutive mile run, which is tentatively scheduled for November. I have not been out to the gun range or the park yet this year, either with winter and young kids and such. I think I should be able to get that done this summer, though. Patrick is finally old enough to be left behind with someone for a few hours and he is also old enough to take to the park and I don’t have to stress about him eating something he shouldn’t. So I have committed now to making more park visits with all the kiddos on nice days. It will be nice for my daycare mom as well since she only livesĀ  a block or two from the park, so she could just walk over and pick up daycare girl instead of having to drive the six blocks all the way across town to our house. The kids will really enjoy that too, I know.

I have 16 categories with at least 5 items completed, not including my completed categories, which means I have 12 with less than five, four of which have nothing.

I have five categories with more than 10 items completed. These are Yoga 30 times, Serving at church 30 times, Finishing 30 yarn projects, 30 blog posts, and 30 walks with the dogs. I count a walk with the dogs as a walk by itself and not a run. It’s a challenge after all, right?

I have three categories with 15 or more. Half done!! Those are serving, dog walks, and bog posts.

Those are the most. I have no categories with 20 or more that are not completed.

 

So, the big thing now, what am I learning?

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that this can only be completed one day, one decision at a time. It’s a big reminder that life is lived one decision to another. If I choose to not do something from one of these categories, what am I doing instead? Usually wasting time on the internet. I have realized, and even my husband pointed it out yesterday, that I am spending way too much time dinking around on the internet instead of being present in the moment.

I think that generally when I do that, it means it’s time for me to get out of the house and actually socialize with people. I think it’s my mind’s way of letting me know that I am craving some sort of interaction with people other than my immediate family. So, since I am lagging on friend dates (another category) anyway, it’s about time I schedule a few friend dates.

So, over this week, one day at a time, my focus is going to be trying to get away from checking my phone if I need to check out and doing something else off my 30 30s list. Do I need a minute? What about grabbing my guitar (another category) and singing some songs with the kids? What about reading a chapter or two from the Bible instead of scrolling through facebook? What about doing something thoughtful for my husband (another category) instead?

Every moment we have decisions to make, we get to decide who our future self is going to be. Do I want my future self addicted to the internet? No. I really don’t. I am only human and I screw up and slip up. Thankfully I have someone who loves me who is willing to say “Hey, I think you need to cool it with the technology a little” and I know he’s saying it in love and not in judgment.

What about you? Where is an area you want to grow? What are some goals you have? Who do you want your future self to be?