Two days ago, Saturday 4 November, were two significant family events. It was our granddaughter’s ninth birthday and in our family that celebration has a family boundary where we highlight this wonderful event. A family affair and then a separate birthday party for friends where the family oldies do not atttend — a boundary is set.
Our granddaughter who turned 9 was also a flower girl at our son's wedding day on that same day, 4 November, at an Adelaide winery down near Aldinga Beach. This too is another boundary of celebration and in the wedding service a very specific boundary was set 'to keep unto each other'.
Marriage is not just a geographical leaving, but an emotional leaving – the husband is now bound to his wife in a way that re-prioritises who gets his whole heart – he has left his original family, to create a new family.
I've been reading numerous articles on boundaries which give a foundational view of what boundaries mean for us all. This is a snippet of ideas behind boundaries.
A house yard fence illustrates a boundary. It protects ‘ours’ from 'theirs' and keeps out what is ‘not ours’. It helps us know whatever is inside our fence was ours to take care of, not that we don't care about what happens on the other side of the fence. We are responsible for the lawns, the gardens, the veggie patch, the chook pen, the dog kennel, children's playing nicely, the barbecue — whatever — inside our fence.
There are other types of boundaries as well, emotional and geographical distance, are two other types of boundaries. When we create geographical distance between ourselves and someone else, we can protect ourselves from destructive or disrespectful behaviour. Likewise emotional distance does something similar, but is often less obvious on the outside.
Romans chapter 13, verse 12 “the night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light”. Here, Paul is reminding us there is a distinction, a boundary, between what good is, and what bad is. Good, and God, is like the light. Then bad, or night, is like the darkness of our sin.
Alex Kwee says of this, God is very clear with us in scripture that boundaries are appropriate as they differentiate what is Godly, and what is evil.
Again, 1 Timothy chapter 5, verse 8 (NIV): “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”. It can be tempting to say yes to everyone else, or hard to say no to others, but if it means we’re not taking care of what’s within our own fence, then we have a boundary issue. The analogy — God requires of us, before mowing anyone else’s lawn, to make sure our own is mowed.
Matthew 14, tells us that Jesus has just learned of the death of John the Baptist, and it tells us in verse 13 “when Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place”. It’s okay to take breaks, to say ‘no’, to listen to what we’re feeling and to rest. If you think about Jesus’ ministry at the time, it’s not like he had nothing to do. He probably had to make the choice to say no to opportunities for ministry, or caring or healing someone else, to make time to grieve the loss of his dear friend.
This is the philosophy of the Laguna Quays Respite cottage (video) on the Whitsundays for missions/pastors. A recuperation boundary is Christian ministry 101.
Boundaries are useful for defining, and also for protecting. I was seated with a gentleman and his wife at a Schools Scripture breakfast who told me he had been to Slovenia where he was amazed to hear people talking about their support for a similar — Australia's strong border protection political policies.
This reminds us that we can have boundaries, while still allowing flow between things inside and outside of the boundary. When the boundary is working well, and everything is in order, a boundary is unobtrusive. When necessary, boundaries can also become non-negotiable, and rigid.
North and South Korea have a boundary that keeps each entity as separate as possible. At times, borders, just like relational boundaries, preclude the ability for mutually constructive relationships. We always want the boundary to appropriately match the context and relationship.
Relationship boundaries apply to everyday life. Work place boundaries between men and women we're familiar with, Christian youth group dating boundaries are biblical common sense and likewise in ministry and mission teams.
The area of boundaries which experience drama are when boundaries clash. In the young writer ministry, we have article due dates, this is a well established boundary. In order for everything else to flow smoothly from the week coordinator who collates that week's articles, then to the week-editor, then to my office, then to Christian Today for publishing, that boundary article 'due date' becomes critical.
Some young writers consider their boundaries to be of greater import to them, such as the nail polish not working as it should (writing gets put back), or coffee with a friend (writing gets put back), or some other personal issue that impinges on their boundary and which conflicts with — the due date boundary — this is not a trifling matter.
It Christian ministry such conflicting boundaries are common place, partly because they are voluntary, partly because it is not the main-game in their lives, sometimes it's … Boundaries play an enormous part in our lives, and where the various boundaries conflict, it can be a seemingly never ending drama.
My family of adults with families of their own, marrieds and one soon to be married, we've been discussing boundaries associated with sexual harassment. In this acid climate, a young man might not be confident in asking a girl out for coffee without someone some kind of evidentiary … perhaps a camcorder ... now that's a boundary construct.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html