Some people have jobs in which they do the same thing well again and again. I have generally been surprised by the variety and unexpected nature of daily activities that I encounter, but one thing has become more and more consistent…..the concept of boundaries as a daily task that has to be modeled, taught, and reinforced with women with whom we work at Titus 2. Coming from the kind of chaotic, unstructured, relationally deficient, and self-interest based lifestyle in which most of them have engaged, they are rarely prepared for community life. Every time someone new enters the mix it takes a couple of months to get them “socialized” to accept the boundaries within which they are required to live at Titus 2…..with rules, structure, expectations for communication with one another, under authority, etc.
This week, once again, it has taken several days to work through some typical boundary violations and help the violators understand that to remain in community where they benefit from the blessings that they desire, they must also accept the boundaries that define community.
Thinking about boundaries and the result of failing to set them or respect those of others, are there times when boundaries need to be pressed? Yes. But undertaking such ventures as that alone or without sufficient prayer and preparation can be disastrous.
Cloud and Townsend’s book, Boundaries, has a list of systems for those who refuse to set boundaries or accept the boundaries of others. In descending order, the entities against which one rebels are these:
one’s own health/body, and finally,
law enforcement and the court system (including the state dependency system when one’s children are removed.) .
This is the “final frontier” in boundary setting opportunities according to their list…..and systems of boundaries which one will either accept and respect or one will continue in a life of chaos and difficulty.. It is often after one’s first or second encounter with the court system that she begins to realize that life will have to be dealt with on life’s terms and not raled or rebelled against or manipulated for one’s own preference, convenience, etc.
Given that Cloud and Townsend are Christians, I have found it surprising that they did not include a boundary and a boundary-setter that is beyond even the court……God. God is in the midst of reality at every one of these levels and as one rejects boundaries at any level, one also rejects those of God. And when all is said and done and one’s life is a mess from the rejection of boundaries, those of others or their own….God is still there. And if one is willing finally to accept God’s boundaries, she will find that God is present, good, sovereign, and personally willing to begin the work of restoration in a life.