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“Sin takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them.” John Owen, The Mortification of Sin
This week I have been completing some research for a current project and I came across these old notes of mine. I thought they might bless one or two of you as well, so here you go:
TKB Notes from Ed Welch’s (excellent!) article on ‘Boundaries’
in the Spring 2004 Journal of Biblical Counseling
- Overcommitted people are the lifeblood of the church. People who say, “Yes” to one request are usually asked to do five more things. Even “Christian” books will encourage you to “set a personal boundary” and “just say no.” But is that how we should think about such things? Is “setting a boundary” a biblical paradigm?
- Rather than the term “boundary,” think in terms of biblical priorities (prayer, opportunities to meditate on Scripture, work, service, relationships, and rest). Ask yourself, “Am I out of whack in any of these areas?” If so, seek counsel as to how you can live a more healthful and “balanced” life.
- Remember! Love does not always mean self-sacrifice. Love and wisdom can mean saying no to service opportunities.
- Guard against making the desire to NOT disappoint others into an idol. We all have the tendency to overestimate our own importance and underestimate God’s care for his people and his church (and the gifts that God has given to others).
- Instead of “boundaries,” think in terms of the knowledge of God revealed in Christ; repentance; faith expressing itself in love. Love and discernment are the constituent parts of wisdom.
- Instead of erecting “boundaries,” ask, “How should I wisely love this person? What is my calling? What are my priorities?”
- The challenge of love is that it is so multi-faceted. Love may entail taking a bullet for someone OR kicking them out of your house. Love may mean bearing their burden or encouraging them and helping them as they bear their own burden.
- What about unhealthy relationships / relationships where someone has a history of exhausting people? What else does the person do to push people away? Constant grumbling and complaining? Frequent discussions of their own problems but unwilling to heed advice? Demands for inordinate amount of time? Careful! You cannot raise these issues casually; you cannot help them apart from a relationship with the person. Unhealthy sometimes means inconvenient. True—only room for a limited number of close friends; offer of friendship doesn’t obligate us to reciprocate in the way a person might want. An inconvenient relationship is an opportunity for us to examine our own hearts and seek what God has for us to do. Unhealthy sometimes means relationships that induce us to sin.
- Abuse? If physical—boundary is appropriate (call police, provide safe place, initiate a protection from abuse order, do whatever is necessary to protect her). Why? Love. Love says no to evil. Goal is to bless enemies and lead them to repentance. Lev. 19:17. How to rebuke and who you might have present with you when you rebuke once again are decisions that require wisdom.
- Walk in wisdom. Don’t erect boundaries. Sometimes you answer a foolish person, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you cover an offense, sometimes you speak out. You begin with the fear of the Lord, learn from similar situations, get the counsel of others, keep checking your own heart and its motives, remember your limitations, rehearse the law of love, recognize that keeping everyone happy is impossible but there are ways you can speak that encourage conciliation, mutual understanding, and unity.
- What about biblical admonitions like, “Don’t cast pearls before swine” (Matt 7:6) and “Expel wicked man from among you” (1 Cor 5:13)? Be very careful! Not a dominant metaphor of Scripture; should seek counsel when considering it.
** CAREFUL ** Thinking in terms of ‘boundaries’ can lead us to think more about self-protection than about love.
Because you’re better with words, you’re going to win this argument—but that doesn’t make you right.
The teacher wasn’t talking to me or even about me (in this specific situation), but he was so talking about me when he described a recent fight he had with his wife:
“Tempers were raging. She was hurt. I was hurt.
She started to slip down The Slippery Slope to her comfort zone—the Escape responses. I started to SLAM down The Slippery Slope into my area of expertise—Attack. (Not physically of course! Just putting all of those years of law school and seminary to work to attack in the most common way—with my words.)
But then. She was so brave. She was so accurate when she said to me: “Because you are better with words and you think faster than me, you are going to win this argument. But that doesn’t make you right.”
And I thought to myself:
“And it certainly doesn’t make you loving..”
Oh. Oh. Oh. How many times in my life have I won an argument, simply because I think fast and I’m good with words? But I haven’t been right. And I certainly haven’t been loving.
In a conversation with a friend yesterday, she confessed to me this same propensity to sin. (And it is a sin! James 3:8 paints a picture of the negative in stating that the tongue is a “restless evil full of deadly poison. James 1:26 says that the one who fails to keep a tight rein on her tongue has a worthless religion. Strong words! Plus, of course, Ephesians 4:29 states the positive, that all / every word we say ought to be edifying, “ministering God’s grace in its various forms.”)
But this teacher I heard years ago? My friend in our conversation yesterday? So many people—including myself for many, many years? We actually enjoy verbally backing people into corners.. It’s like a sport to us. And in the right place at the right time (debate society / moot court / an actual courtroom)? It is appropriate. Wise. Even loving.
But not usually. Not often in real life.
So—my fast thinking, good-with-words-friends? (And I’m pointing the finger at myself too!) Let’s be careful. Far, far more careful. Let’s stop using our words to back people into verbal corners as we remember:
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness …
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And wa harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:5 & 17-18 ESV
For the glory of the Lamb and the actual loving of our real neighbors—
Live Blog Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned
(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)
Peacemaker Conference Plenary #2 LiveBlog – Dr. Gary Hoag: Peacemaking – A New Testament Perspective
Live Blog Peacemaker Conf Plenary #2 – Dr. Gary Hoag: Peacemaking – A New Testament Perspective
(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)
Live Blog 2014 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 1 – Dr. Jason Meyer: No Greater Love
(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)
Oh! I am a blessed woman. Just listen to some of the reminders I heard today at The Peacemaker Conference advanced training events:
- “I finished four years of Bible college and three years of seminary and never once had a class on conflict resolution. But most leaders (church) and managers (business) spend one-third or more of their time dealing with conflict, but that’s never on the job description, is it? But this is where we live.”
- “As peacemakers, we have encounters with God and God’s Truth. I enjoy helping in this way so much because God is always faithful.”
- “Everything takes on a different flavor and a different intensity in the marital relationship.”
- “HOPE IS NOT ROOTED IN: good intentions; behavior change alone; the skill of a counselor; guilt over past offenses; acting in the best interest of the children; marriage books or seminars …”
- “Remind the parties of the progress they have already experienced!” “Do you realize you are not the same person you were when I met you?”
- “Affirm the parties’ first step in seeking help. People often don’t see that they HAVE taken a first step and they are to be commended.”
- “We’re going to put all the issues on the table. All of them. We’re not going to be afraid of being ungodly or politically incorrect. We are going there. We are going to address all of the messiest issues because God is big enough and God’s Word is big enough. He gives us the resources we need and we are going there.”
- (And my favorite one of the day by far …) “One of the ways you instill hope is that you actually have hope.”
- “Tell them: You are not alone. God has provided people to help you. You are not alone and you will not be alone.”
- “Grief is a doorway to the healing power of God in a time of loss. Grief actually enhances and honors the magnitude of the loss.”
Oh! I have to close with just one more:
“We must help the parties to believe God’s Word is true–specifically that God loves His children. Poll any group of committed Christians. Ask them if they really, truly, deeply believe that God loves them. Ask Christians who are in conflict; Christians who are divorcing–do you truly believe that God loves you? When I ask that question, inevitably more than half say NO.
We get to help them silence those voices of shame and believe, truly believe, that God is for them because God loves them. That does not happen when we give them a Bible verse; that happens as we journey with them.“
Mmmmmmm. Thank You, Lord, for Peacemaker Ministries.
What a joy it is to be here at The Peacemaker Conference Advanced Training Events!
I could fill this screen with pages of notes, but instead I’ll just share a few of my favorite quotes from the day with you:
- “Peacemaking is an essential ministry of the local church.”
- “When Christians are in conflict, one of their greatest needs is to remember their identity in Christ—this is who you are! This is who you get to be!”
- “If you get absolutely nothing else out of this course, adopt this attitude as a Christian conciliator and ask this question: How can I best serve you?”
- “When I start to read a passage of Scripture to Christians in conflict, most of them know exactly how to finish the passage. Our problem so often is not that we don’t know what the Bible says, our problem is understanding how to obey it and apply it.”
- “Is peacemaking the responsibility, even the privilege of the Church? Yes!”
Amen & Amen!
And thank You, Lord, for Peacemaker Ministries.
On the drive home from church today, my ten year-old daughter asked me when I was the most scared in my entire life.
I thought for a moment and then I replied that the saddest I had ever been was when our second child died on that fateful Easter afternoon in 2007 and then when my best friend, my mother, passed away in 2012.
But the most scared? Hmmmm. For that I had to dig back to two childhood memories.
The first was when the MCHS (Morris Community High School) principal sent a runner to pull me out of my junior-level physics class because my sister was calling from the University of Chicago, frantic, because my mom had called her and through slurred speech told her that she was committing suicide and she just wanted to say goodbye. My sister and the principal weren’t sure if it was a real threat or just idle words from a mentally-ill addict, so no one was quite sure what to do. I volunteered to drive home (I was sixteen years-old) and see what was going on.
I was shaking with fright as I drove my bright orange Datsun B210 home. My fear increased exponentially when I opened the double glass doors to our apartment complex and I was bowled over by the smell of natural gas. And by the time I turned the key in the door to our actual apartment, and I had to instinctively drop to the ground just to find enough air to breathe, I knew things were B.A.D. (You can hear all of the other details here in the audio recording of my testimony if you are interested.) Yup. Pretty scary.
But not the most scared I have ever been.
When I really thought about it, the strongest memory I have of being the most scared ever had to be when I was just about the same age as my oldest daughter (the one who asked me the question). My parents had finally started official divorce proceedings (after years of separations and trying again and fighting and separations and institutionalizations for my mother and getting back together again only to fight and separate, etc. etc.). Finally, they were done—and before the divorce was even final, my dad was living with another woman. So the one parent I thought loved me (my dad) loved only two people—himself and his live-in girlfriend. I was an inconvenience and a hassle and they just wanted to be alone together—so they kicked me out and made me go and live with my mother who, at the time, was still drinking to excess, not mentally stable, and she really couldn’t stand me at all. My entire childhood, my mother and I had absolutely NO relationship. I do not have one memory of cuddling with her or being held by her as a young child and as I grew older, my memories were of a great deal of rage and rancor from her toward me. So living with her was torture for her, for me, and for my poor sister who was caught in the middle. So it was inevitable that my mom kicked me out too and there I was, back with my father and his (by then) wife. But just for a few months because then they decided that I REALLY was the worst kid ever and they would have absolutely NOTHING to do with me.
And that brings us up to the absolute most terrified I have ever been in my life. I was just a child. I had no resources. But my father dropped me off at some location I did not know and told me to wait there because my mom was going to pick me up but he didn’t want to have to see her. So there I sat, on a curb, with all of my worldly belongings piled around me in little kid bags and garbage bags, watching my father drive away without even looking back. I knew, in that moment, that I really was completely alone in the world. The one adult I thought cared about me just left me and as far as I could tell, it didn’t bother him at all. He couldn’t wait to be rid of me. And what did the future hold for me? An adult whom I knew did not like, more or less love me, was coming to get me because she was forced to do so.
I remember thinking:
“Oh, man. This is really it. I have no home. There really is no place for me in this world. What am I going to do? How am I going to survive this?”
Sophie asked me how I DID survive that? No resources. No advocate. No safe place. Just a kid. How did I make it through? I told her that I wasn’t really sure—but that I remember I played a lot of piano (God’s grace to me way before I knew him!) and I read a lot of books and wrote a lot of really bad poetry in a lot of lame journals. (This made her laugh.) And also that I tried to do well in school and have a few friends and just survive.
But the truth was, it was a childhood of deprivation—deprivation of love, for sure, but also of just basic life things like personal care items (and instructions on how to take care of personal care issues); clean sheets and clean clothes; underwear, bras, socks, and shoes—any time I expressed a need for even just a basic clothing item that fit appropriately, I was told in no uncertain way that I was a burden and I ought to be ashamed of myself for being such an inconvenience because I cost so much money and no one wanted me.
The day I counted out 500 pennies from a jar in my mother’s apartment so that I could buy a $5 Domino’s pizza because there was absolutely no food in the house and (since I was just a child) I had no way to go anywhere and get any food—yeah. That was the day I realized that something was really messed up in our home. But wow! Was I grateful for that hot food. (Poor, poor pizza delivery guy who had to take 500 pennies from a vagabond kid.)
Both Fred and Sophie were a little extra compassionate to me tonight as they both caught another glimpse at the layers of pain, rejection, shaming, neglect, abuse, and outright hatred that I had to bear up under for a long, long time as a child. Those things don’t explain why I’m still such a messed up person today! Childhood traumas are influential but not causative (!). Still. The influence can be profound at times.
How sweet it is to know that God’s grace is always greater still. And there are no wasted tears. Just like every orphan, every foster kid, every neglected and abused kid in a seemingly intact / healthy / “OK” home, the Triune God sees and knows and cares. He comforts. He restores. He saves his children. He saved me! He gave me Himself and and He gave me a family and a home, an inheritance, kept in Heaven by God that can never perish or fail or spoil or fade. One day I will be made completely whole. In the meantime, throughout this journey of life, I am being made more and more whole / sound / at peace because I am wanted and loved and cherished now by the one Person who matters the most.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Who has blessed us in the Heavenly realms with every spiritual blessings in Christ
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight
In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons, in accordance with his pleasure and his will–
to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely gives us in the one he loves!”
Ephesians 1. My theme song. My only hope. My enough.
When I remember these truths, all of my fears flee and I am not afraid.
“What can man do to me?”
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Christ, the Messiah of God.”
“Ah! How does the God of peace, by his Spirit and messengers, pursue after peace with poor creatures! God first makes offer of peace to us: ‘Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
God’s grace first kneels to us, and who can turn their backs upon such blessed and bleeding embracements—but souls in whom Satan the god of this world reigns? God is the party wronged, and yet he sues for peace with us at first: ‘I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.’ It is doubled to show God’s exceeding forwardness to show favor and mercy to them (Isaiah 65:1).
Ah! How does the sweetness, the freeness, and the riches of his grace break forth and shine upon poor souls.”
“Christians, it is not a matter of liberty whether you will or you will not pursue after peace—but it is a matter of duty that lies upon you; you are bound by express precept to follow after peace; and though it may seem to fly from you, yet you must pursue after it: ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.’
The Greek signifies to follow after peace, as the persecutor does him whom he persecutes. Peace and holiness are to be pursued after with the greatest eagerness that can be imagined. So the psalmist: ‘Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it’ (Psalm 34:14).
The Hebrew word that is here rendered seek, signifies to seek earnestly, vehemently, affectionately, studiously, industriously. ‘And pursue it.’ That Hebrew word signifies earnestly to pursue, being a metaphor taken from the eagerness of wild beasts or ravenous fowls, which will run or fly both fast and far rather than be disappointed of their prey.
So the apostle presses the same duty upon the Romans: ‘Let us follow after the things that make for peace, and the things wherein one may edify another’ (Romans 14:19). Ah! You forward, sour, dogged Christians, can you look upon these commands of God without tears and blushing?”
(Excerpts from Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices)