Boundaries. We all need them, right? Whether it’s work, family or the amount of pizza I order at 9 p.m. after a hard day, boundaries are what keep us healthy. How can we be present parents, maintain healthy relationships or practise self-care without them?
When Daniel and I were starting our lives together together as Salvation Army officers and as parents, we tried hard to create healthy boundaries. In fact, I became a little obsessed with how to implement them properly, so I could continue to do all the things and please all the people.
But what we realized is that work, marriage and kids can’t be placed in neat boxes and scheduled into perfectly planned weeks. We would plan a day off, and an important work matter would come up. We would schedule a date night, and a kid would start throwing up. We would close the office for the day, and a seniors’ home would burn down that night.
The last example might be unique, but do you get where I am going with this? Life can’t be contained by rigid boundaries with no room for interruption. Life is unbalanced chaos, with ups and downs, ebbs and flows.
As parents, we quickly learn to work during nap times or to strap a kid into a carrier and keep serving. We politely tell a client to hang on a second while we break up a sibling fight. When we’re at the office and not with our kids, we wonder just how much therapy they’ll need. When we’re at home cooking supper, we fear failure in our work.
I tried hard, but I just couldn’t figure out my boundaries—when I was “Mom,” when I was “Captain” or when I was simply following Jesus. Then a wise woman helped me change my mindset, and I’d like to share her wisdom with you.
She said that Jesus calls us to live right smack dab in the middle of that tension.
In Romans, Paul tells us, “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1-2 The Message). Nowhere in that passage does it tell us to put boundaries on when, where, what or with whom. In fact, the New International Version translation tells us that we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. Every single thing we do should be for God and point to God.
One of the most interesting things about Jesus’ life is that he never hurried. We never see him trying to stick to a schedule or running because he was late. He did the work of his Father as he walked from one place to another, as he was interrupted by people touching his robe or climbing trees to see him. We don’t see Jesus putting such hard boundaries on his life that he forgets he is always doing the work of his Father, but we do see him living intentionally, thoughtfully and rhythmically.
I am the biggest advocate against this hustle culture we live in. I believe that the key to fulfilling Jesus’ words “on earth as it is in heaven” is less work and more focus on the things that matter. But I believe that, at times, I placed such hard and fast boundaries on life that I missed out on bringing that kingdom to earth.
Maybe, as that wise woman told me, you are also overcategorizing and underplaying the importance of taking your everyday, ordinary life and placing it, all of it—the boring and the mundane and the chaotic—at the feet of Jesus. Maybe simply grasping that unbalanced rhythm of life will help you put everything into place, too.
Boundaries are good. My body appreciates that I don’t eat pizza every night. But if we are called to be like Jesus and live like Jesus, we need to recognize that there are no boundaries for doing our Father’s holy and sacrificial work in our everyday lives.
Grow closer to God. Take care of yourself and the ones you love. And take that everyday life and lay it before the one who knows just how you should live it.
Captain Bhreagh Rowe is the community ministries officer, St. Albert Church and Community Centre, Alta.
Photo: Drazen Zigic/iStock via Getty Images Plus
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