This morning, for a few moments, though, I am coming up for air. The semester is halfway through, and I would love to say that it's been all sweetness and light, a joy, that my path has been confirmed at every turn, but I would be lying. It's been hard. There have been some bright spots, but lately those have been overshadowed by some pain.
One of the things God has been teaching me this semester is to set boundaries with people according to His Word and His work in my heart. And boundaries are not always easy to set or maintain. People disrespect them, and then you have to draw a bigger boundary with a person, even when you don't want to, even when you'd rather forget it, even when you'd rather eat an entire carton of Ben & Jerry's chunky monkey instead of facing it, whatever the personal circumstance for you might be.
Sometimes drawing a boundary you know is needed causes you to be misunderstood, or to be challenged, or to be marginalized because you stand up for what you know deep in your heart you must do. At times, when we are faced with a situation that begins to feel like spiritual death instead of spiritual life, we must take stock and ask God if this is what He wants for us as His sons and daughters. We're told to guard our hearts and that Jesus has come that we might have life, abundantly. And so we sometimes make hard decisions that tear us up inside so we can continue to follow our Savior with our hearts intact.
In case you were wondering, I have not eaten the carton of Ben & Jerry's yet this semester, though I must admit it's not due to my incredible willpower. I simply have none in the freezer, and no time to buy any, either.
I'll close with a quote from the book The Emotionally Healthy Church, which has been a cherished read for me this semester:
"Christian leaders all too often allow themselves to be disrespected, allowing people to speak to them and about them in ways that are inappropriate. They think that this is the "Christian way." But for healthy community to thrive, there must be a foundation of respect. By respect, I am referring to how we treat one another, not how we feel about each other. We have a right to be different, a right to be taken seriously, a right to be heard, and a right to disagree. Take away any of those and you have relationships dominated by one or more persons at the expense of another." -Peter J. Scazzero
Jesus loves us, friends, more than we can understand. And when someone is hurting us, especially in a spiritual sense, we must choose boundaries that bring life to a situation. I'm learning this through a difficult path this semester, but the good thing is, I'm learning it! If you have interest in pursuing this further I'd recommend the "Receive the Gift of Limits" chapter in The Emotionally Healthy Church. And the good book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.
Embracing and living with healthy boundaries really can change the fruitfulness of a person's life, or the temperature of a small group, even the effectiveness of a church. I hope in my heart that every person reading this will learn how to implement boundaries in every one of their relationships. It really can change difficult circumstances and relationships in some surprising ways.
Thanks for listening!