We all have struggles. We all make mistakes. But some of us don’t realize until later in life that one of our root issues or problems that we’ve been carrying around since ummmm, FOREVER ~ is a big reason for all of those other trials we experience.
I’m one of those people. And it’s time to work on discarding the layers of gunk that don’t need to be there anymore.
There’s enough to contend with that causes us to be tempted or stumble in life without all this junk that we carry around that was never meant to be there in the first place. I’ve mentioned several times before that part of what I struggle with is how I handle conflict. If I told you why I think that is or what all has perpetuated this issue, I would be writing a book instead of a short little essay today. So we won’t go there.
Conflict is part of life. But if you are someone like me, you allow other layers of junk to get in there and add to the root issue. That stuff is not meant to remain with us. It is evil and needs to be completely discarded.
This is by no means easy to do.
So I just want to share today that the Lord is truly enlightening me in regard to one MAJOR AND DECEPTIVE culprit in my life when it comes to conflict problems –
For most of my life (all of it) I really haven’t had or enforced many boundaries. And not only is dealing with conflict getting harder and harder for me now (almost unbearable), but I truly think a lot of my health issues are coming as a result from this as well – at the very least, they are being worsened by it.
Because of the lack of appropriate and Christ like boundaries in my life, I have opened the door to more sin. Resentment, bitterness, outbursts when I can’t take it any more…AND a perpetual cycle of trying harder, doing better, so as to avoid wrath or displeasure with those with whom I interact. I find myself having to withdraw more in order to regain composure. But the worst kind of withdrawal comes from inside of my heart.
I shut down.
Part of the need for withdrawal in the midst of conflict, in all fairness, is due to the issues that Fibromyalgia causes a person…you really have no choice when you get overwhelmed but to remove yourself for a while. And removing yourself from evil or situations that are becoming sinful is also a part of what God asks us to do, as long as it is due to the fact that you have chosen this as a boundary line that is healthy, rather than escape with no intention of resolution at a later time.
It gets blurry sometimes.
But sometimes we just flat out withdraw. Sometimes we build walls after realizing we have no property or boundary lines. And that’s kind of like going from one extreme to another, don’t you think?
We are meant to have clear lines of demarcation (boundaries). When we have them, we don’t have to build walls very often. When we don’t, we end up having to go curl up into a fetal position alone or come out guns-a-blazing.
The book I am studying right now along with the passages in the Bible that talk about healthy conflict management and appropriate boundary lines focuses on how HAVING good boundaries is truly loving like God wants us to love and NOT HAVING them is NOT.
It’s eye opening, yet heartbreaking at the same time. You see, I asked God to help me take the logs out of my own eyes so that I can work on how I deal with conflict (hence, relationships and love better as a result) and this is what keeps coming up for me.
- Boundaries are crucial for living in the likeness of God.
- Boundaries are imperative if we want to love like Christ.
- Boundaries walk us into truly giving in freedom – from the heart – not from fear of retaliation or consequences we might reap in relationships that aren’t healthy.
- Boundaries help our relationships – IF those we are surrounded with respect them and IF we respect the boundaries of others.
- Not having boundaries is NOT loving and leads to sin and evil. So does not respecting the boundaries of others.
- Boundaries are NOT just physical. They are emotional, mental, spiritual, etc. We cannot take ownership for the feelings of others. We must take ownership for our own feelings.
- Not having boundaries binds us up and prevents us from giving where God would have us give.
The first book I am studying (aside from the Bible) is called Boundaries, and is written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Here is an excerpt that hit me like a ton of bricks:
- “WE are responsible to others and for ourselves. ‘Carry each other’s burdens,‘ says Galatians 6:2, ‘and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’ This verse shows our responsibility to one another. Many times others have “burdens” that are too big to bear. They do not have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry the load, and they need help. Denying ourselves to do for others what they cannot do for themselves is showing the sacrificial love of Christ. This is what Christ did for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves; he saved us. This is being responsible to “to.”
- “On the other hand, verse 5 says that “each one should carry his own load.” Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry. These things are our own particular “load” that we need to take daily responsibility for and work out. No one can (or even sometimes should they) do certain things for us. We have to take ownership of certain aspects of life that are our own “load.“
- “The Greek words for burden and load give us insight into the meaning of these texts. The Greek word for burden means “excess burdens,” or burdens that are so heavy that they weigh us down. These burdens are like boulders. They can crush us. We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves! It would break our backs. We need help with the boulders – those times of crisis and tragedy in our lives.”
- “In contrast, the Greek word for load means “cargo” or “the burden of daily toil.” This word describes the everyday things we all need to do. These loads are like knapsacks. We are expected to carry our own. We are expected to deal with our own feelings, attitudes and behaviors as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us.”
- “Problems arise when people act as if their “boulders” are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.”
- “Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. They help us to “guard our heart with all diligence.” They help us keep the good in and the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt 7:6). “
All of this is biblical, friends. In fact, I was led to it from a couple of Pastors that truly teach from the Word and even Focus on the Family recommends this book throughout so many things they deal with in regard to conflict issues among Christians.
The whole point of this is that in order to even think of being a peacemaker, we have to establish good boundaries. In order to even think of loving like Christ, we must follow his mandates in regard to loving from the heart, not because we fear loss of love, loss of acceptance, or anger that might come our way.
This Boundaries book also opened my eyes to the fact that the idea of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. I have gone to the Word to check this for myself, and it’s all throughout the Bible!
- “God defines his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes and dislikes. He differentiates himself from others. He tells us who he is and who he is not. He limits what he will allow in his yard. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behavior. He guards his house and will not allow evil things to go on there. The “gates” of his boundaries open and close appropriately. In the same way, he gave us his “likeness”. He gave us personal responsibility within limits. We wants us to “rule and subdue” the earth and be responsible stewards over the life he has given us. To do that, we need to develop boundaries like God’s.”
The entire reason I started down this road and am embarking upon intensive (and biblical only) study of conflict management is because it has been made clear to me that the deepest desire of my heart is to love like Jesus wants for me to love. He desires “mercy, not sacrifice.” (Hos 6:6). I realize now that for most of my life, I have missed the mark here. I have allowed fear to dictate what I will do for others, rather than asking the Lord to tell me what is appropriate and right to do, and what is not.
I neither created nor implemented healthy boundaries.
And when we don’t, the bad stuff gets inside and distorts real love. It makes us sick.
I would covet your prayers regarding all of this, dear friends. You don’t reach the age of 50 and start learning how to create God-like boundaries and do it with ease. Not only do you have to learn, but as you implement, it may be hard on others in your life who aren’t used to you being this way. I need prayer that the Lord would guide me and lead me to have healthy boundaries and own them in love. I truly want this to be something that is beneficial not only to me and my own relationship with God and others, but that frees me to discern where there are true burdens I can lend support to, instead of carrying so many loads that take my eye off what really matters to God.
I need to own it and it’s not going to be easy.
But it is crucial. It is absolutely crucial that I learn what others’ boundaries are, as well as allow mine to be created (and implemented, even when it’s hard) with the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will help me to stick to them, regardless of how it feels – this I know. I just need a lot of prayer for wisdom, clarity and courage right now.
Everyone must work their “own salvation out with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). This is no different than that.
It’s high time.
We see a clear example of healthy boundaries right on the cross – it is seen between Jesus the two thieves hanging next to him. One repented and opened his heart sincerely to Christ. The gates were flung open and Jesus invited him to enter into paradise with him. The other was not repentant or sincere, and Jesus drew a line – He wouldn’t even look at him. Boundaries are Christ like. Appropriate ones.
I don’t want to be that guy that Jesus wouldn’t look at. I want to be sincere, through and through. I want to truly repent. I want to love with compassion, not sacrifice. (Matt 9:13)
I would rather learn now to create healthy boundaries to be more responsible for what God has called me to, than continue down this path I have been on, especially when it comes to conflict.
Will you pray for me, friends? If you also find yourself struggling with having either inappropriate boundaries (too many, not enough) or not honoring someone else’s, would you go to the Lord about it all? If you even question whether or not you are doing things for others out of sacrifice or pure love, out of fear of a bad result, worry about withholding of love or acceptance, or fear of anger and retaliation, will you turn it over to God? If you find that instead of loving others by helping them carry their true burdens, you are too busy carrying the loads that don’t belong to you in the first place, will you consider asking Jesus to help you have clarity and power to change?
So often, we Christians only cling to the verses in the Bible that sound good – we take them and distort them without looking at the context in which they are written or without applying all of the other principles Christ has put forth for us in the rest of the Bible!
- We can’t REALLY “do unto others as we would have others do unto us” if we don’t have good boundaries.
- We can’t REALLY “bear one another’s burdens” if we are carrying everyone else’s loads or asking them to carry all of our own.
But if we surrender this twisted stuff over to the Lord, He will empower us. He will enable us to learn more about how to walk in the freedom He has given us and love with freedom and from a pure place.
A God place.
This is part of what it means to walk the hard and narrow road as a Christian. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it”. Matthew 7:13
But I know, that I know, that I KNOW – He will be there with us every step of the way!
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18