Boundaries for Balance

Featuring Branon Dempsey Posted on March 24, 2008

It seems that our calendars keep filling up and our to-do-lists get heavier and longer. People are everywhere in demands of our time, attention and energy. I'm going to ask a few ridiculous questions. Hang with me. I say ridiculous because these questions may sound far too easy and elementary, but the answers may reveal underlying truths that can unlock a few insights. Your answers may be a reflection of a recent Sunday service, an event from today or somewhere in between.

When is the last time you found yourself doing too much? How many hours do you wish, you can cram into a day? How often do you feel that everything depends on you? How often do you see other people depending on you? How often do you feel that you can’t let something go? How much do you give yourself permission to say the word “No”? Do you feel that you will let other people down or let yourself down by not giving into certain demands? Would you feel rejected by others, yourself or God?

If I'm able to address these questions, it is only because I live in this world like you. So what is the underlying topic for these questions? It is the topic of boundaries. Boundaries can represent many different things that are both visible and invisible. Physical boundaries can be walls, fences and lines. Invisible boundaries can be words, thoughts and actions. Boundaries are defined by points that indicate where something ends and something else begins. Boundaries are property lines that can be understood by you and others, they clarify owenrship. It is a way to say this is my area and this is yours. Boundaries help us identify our responsibilities, priorities and the choices we make. We see many opportunities in our life experiences that call for the need of boundaries for family, relationships and vocation. We also see them in the deciding factors of where we go, what we do and what we say.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  Boundaries help us determine what is good for us and what is bad for us. Keep the good in and the bad out. The authors of the book, “Boundaries,” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend suggest helpful perspectives and tools to maintain, protect and nurture our personal development by keeping healthy boundaries. The authors talk about emotional and physical fences as a form of boundaries. They also say that fences need gates in order to let the bad out and the good in. We are managers of our own gates by opening or closing we analyze, value, determine what goes in our out of our personal fences. Sometimes we are fooled or find it difficult to decide by appearance or thought what is healthy and unhealthy.

Jesus uses the illustration of sheep in John, chapter 10 and elsewhere in the New Testament. As you may know, sheep are used as an analogy to describe people. Sheep do not have the best eyesight and cannot think and make decisions for themselves. Often sheep are guided by the voice of their master as we find in John 10:4. We too, find it difficult to determine exactly what is good for us and exactly what is bad. Having God's guidance and watch over our gates and fences can help us make all the difference. Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Our need is to have God’s help in defining our boundaries as well as the need for Jesus to be our mental, emotional and physical gate.

Think about your ministry and personal areas. What do your fences look like? Are they tattered, worn or disarray with broken or missing pieces? Think about which boards are in need of repair or in need to be established. Think about what perpetrates your home life, relational life and ministry life. Is your personal gate rusted shut or loosely opened? My friend, the Good Shepherd, who knows your name, calls to you and I to follow. He calls us to his guidance as He knows what is best for us. As Jesus said, He is the Gate, by entering through him we will find salvation, pasture and the abundance of life. He protects us from the thief and the wolves that prowl outside our fences. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. He is the voice that leads, protects and heals us. Are we listening to Him? Are we allowing Him to be the Gate and Guide of our boundaries? 

Check out this old faithful chorus that speaks of our need for the Shepherd: “I Look to The Shepherd,” by Walt Harrah.