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  • Writer's pictureKristen Cole

Letting Boundary Lines Fall

I robotically approached my kitchen, poured my creamer, then my coffee and mindlessly opened those same pantry doors I had opened for the past eleven years. That morning was surprisingly different. I was struck by a renewed ability to see. It was weird. It was as if a cloud had been lifted and my eyes were able to focus, to escape the dark tunnel that had become my way of existing in every area of my life – even my kitchen pantry. I could see open plastic baggies with stale inner contents, crammed in food packages of embarrassing overabundance, half-eaten granola bars hidden between sprouting potatoes – a mess of a life held in survival mode.

As I stripped that pantry of its obvious-to-everyone-else disorder, I began leaning in to the deep cleaning process of my equally as jumbled mind. While everyone could see the crazy crowded “close-it-quickly-before-something-falls-on-the-floor” pantry, only God and I knew of the deeply cluttered attic spaces of my mental storage room.

My mind junk had overtaken my ability to be my best self. Doubt, toxic self-talk and fear clouded my vision in ways I was truly unable to recognize. Though fighting through the day-to-day and doing a pretty good job of keeping it all together, I was crying inside. I so hoped no one could see my hidden tears, especially my kids. If anything would be preserved, I was determined that it would be my kids’ well-being and my ability to be present with them.

Covering up and hiding my true feelings only worked for the short term. My secret little bottle of tears erupted like hot lava flowing from a volcano. They just couldn’t stand the pressure of people pleasing for one more minute. Neither could I. Years spent saying too many yesses and not enough nos had brought me to a place of utter desperation and despair with the good parts of me covered up with piles and piles of heavy mess.

Sometimes the place where we find ourselves most empty is the very place God has us before true renewal can begin. For me, it involved boundaries.

Once my vulnerabilities were exposed, those lava tears scorched idols of indulgence in people pleasing, melted away expectations of others that previously paralyzed me, and destroyed unhealthy patterns of ignoring my own feelings. Deeply defined new boundary lines emerged that I never would have previously allowed or accepted. Though this place was certainly foreign, it was also far more enticing with ultimate pay off of a healthier way of existing and a much more hope-filled legacy for my children.

I threw away literally eight trash bags full of junk that morning. With the closure of each bag, tied tightly with a drawstring cinch, I recalled the letting go of damaging words, thoughts and strongholds. As I cleaned and reorganized my pantry, I realized just how much God and I had been working to cleanse my mind. I recognized the blessing of God’s boundary lines falling upon me like a gentle warm and comforting rain. Then I confidently divided out the basic needs of living from my over indulgent and unhealthy desires to please.

For me, carefully placing each food item in its purposed place resembled far more than the cleaning up of clutter. It allowed for clear demarcation of the stopping of one thing before the starting of another. There would be no further questioning whether or not the Oreo cookie bag had been opened. There would be no further questioning whether or not saying no was the right or wrong thing to do. There would be far less trash and more of what was necessary for one day at a time. There would be far less confusion over where my priorities lie, making decisions clear cut and less complicated.

One container for rice, one for goldfish, one for spaghetti noodles and one for peanut butter filled pretzels. One boundary for marriage, one for parenting, one for work and one for friendships. A shelf designated for canned goods, one for cereal, and one for baking supplies. A space set aside for daily time in God’s word, time in devoted prayer and dedicated to discernment of wise counsel.

Boundaries are biblical and are mentioned throughout God’s word. Psalm 16:5-8 says this: “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

God gave us boundaries to keep us safe. He did it in the Garden of Eden and unfortunately, humanity failed to obey. There were and are consequences to overstepping boundaries and also not implementing them. God’s word is filled with loving examples of speaking hard truths in love. Jesus was a lover of boundaries, of saying no and of shedding the opinions of others. One great example is the story of the paralyzed man at the healing pool in John 5: 1-14. This man lay right beside a pool that was known to provide healing that he so deeply needed. He made every excuse he could think of when Jesus asked him why he had not entered the pool to be healed. Instead of picking him up and taking care of what needed to be done, Jesus made him do the work to be healed. He said, “Do you want to get well? Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Sometimes really loving yourself and others means getting used to using the word “no”. 

Though we may have failed to abide within or set healthy boundaries in our lives, God’s mercies are new every morning, not just in His forgiveness and guidance for us but also in our invitation to start each day anew. One author defines boundaries in this way: “A person with healthy boundaries takes responsibility for his own life and allows others to live theirs. The goal of boundaries is to make sacrifices for people when appropriate, but never in a destructive manner. Boundaries teach us to accept one another as being different yet still valuable. God uses boundaries to help us appreciate the differences in people rather than be upset by them.”

Each time I open a closet or drawer in my home now, if I see clutter, I see it as a challenge to further define boundaries throughout my heart and mind. No longer in bondage to my own fears and failures, I now invite and practice boundary setting on a daily basis. Cleaning up stale remnants of past boundary setting failures has enabled me to better see God’s creation in me. The truth of who I am lies in what God says about me, not what people may perceive to be my motives. Leaning into His word, His truth and His plan have strengthened my self, my marriage, my relationship with my children, my work, my friends and my extended family.

I am so glad I opened those pantry doors that morning. I am so glad I took a minute to be present in my thoughts so that God could speak to me in such a clear and surprising way. I am so glad I made the connection between spaghetti noodles placed in containers in my pantry to priority setting in the boundaries of my heart and mind. I am so glad you took the time to read this post today and pray that God’s good boundaries would lay their foundations in your life today.

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