Do you know what a boundary is when we're talking time/personal well being?
I lived for a long time not understanding the blessing of healthy boundaries.
Not all walls isolate us. Some of them keep us safe in a reasonable way.
Within the wider "Christian" community we have a sense of maintaining no personal boundaries. If we give time, we will give all of our time. If we commit to provide one service, we will commit to provide all services. If we have any gift or natural talent, we should always give it . . . . even if it's not healthy for us.
I once listened to a few ladies try to shame a woman that I love very much into singing more often in church. I was very young. This woman sings like an angel. At first I thought they were complimenting her . . . but even a young child could see it - the pressure . . . the shame.
There is a dishonest voice whispering through our communities. It says, "You must BE all things. You must DO all things. If you don't? If you aren't? Well, then. You're not valuable to God or the community anymore. You're not doing the right thing. You're sinning."
Do you believe that God meant for us to read "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" as an order to do all things and receive credit for them? I don't think so. But sometimes we act like it.
The word of God is empowering and life altering. But it is not a word weighed down by human shame. We humans are the ones who embrace shame. God is counter-cultural. God embraces grace.
Hello - my name is Sarah. I have a huge problem with believing that I must please everybody and do everything. It gives me migraines. It gives me panic attacks (we talked about that a few days ago). It is not healthy. But I struggle with it. That's the truth.
I've told you about my love of John 1:5. There is, indeed, a light shining in the darkness. The darkness cannot overcome it. There is a great peace in the understanding that the body of Christ needs all of its parts . . . and that not all of the parts are the same. We have to be different from each other. And we have to do different work - our diversity makes us more able to complete a unified task.
Musicians often struggle with boundaries. We have trouble budgeting practice time. We overcommit ourselves (especially piano players who accompany many people). We feel important when we are so needed by so many people . . . especially if we carry a religious conviction about the whole thing. But we burn ourselves out. We hurt ourselves - sometimes even physically. Vocal injuries. Tendinitis. Lack of sleep.
Teachers and ministers often struggle with boundaries. We are emotionally and spiritually invested in our work. We are in the business of helping people to grow. We will forego meals, sleep, time with our families (one of the ugliest sacrifices we make), and many other things that we love - and as we give these things up, we often feel justified . . . in the moment . . . . but we feel so, so sorry later on.
We try so hard.
I hope you enjoyed hearing the song by Michael Gungor. If you haven't hit the "play" button yet, scroll on up there and listen. It's short.
Brennan Manning says, "Preach from your weaknesses." We all have them. We all understand them.
I was talking to a young lady I work with. She's a great musician. We were talking about time commitments and boundaries in the field of church music. I explained to her that I have been consciously practicing better boundaries this year because I'd just come out of a time of burn-out and depression - partially caused by total exhaustion. My family actually asked me to please cut back a bit so that I could be a nicer person at home. True story.
Friends, God is the only strong thing I know. And every day I have to say out loud, "God, I need your peace to rest in my soul so that I can say 'no' when I have to. I need your patience to rest in my heart so that I can extend grace to myself when I mess up. I need your hands resting on my shoulders so that I don't allow the feeling of social guilt to build a migraine behind my eyes. I am not willing to be trapped in this web again."
God gave me this one human life. God gave you one, too. And we have this amazing opportunity to live life to the fullest, helping and loving others along the way.
Here is a secret: a fuller schedule, email inbox, or list of contacts does not make our lives full. It might make our planners full. But it will leave our hearts empty.
And if you are an introvert like me? Well . . . the way I see it, God created some of us this way. And if God created us this way, then we have to do our best to nurture and protect our introvert selves. That means that we need a certain amount of down time and space in order to be happy and healthy. No negotiating that one. It is what it is.
What ever happened to that lady who was so good at singing? She sang when she felt it was a naturally joyful thing for her to do. When it was painful and emotionally unhealthy? She did not sing. She did what she knew was the healthiest thing. And that is not a sin.
Hey - you can't be everything. You can't do everything. God does not intend for you to be and do everything. That is God's job. You will be given small opportunities to do little things with big love. Some of them will take the span of your lifetime. Others will come and go in one day. And sometimes you won't see the end of a project. Some people don't get to see the whole nation reach the promised land. Sometimes we have to be satisfied with knowing that we have helped someone move in the right direction.
I have so few guitar skills. So. Few. Fortunately, the whole point of the song is to embrace simplicity . . . so it's almost poetic, right? Suuuuure . . . . .
Anyway. There's not much to it, is there?
God created us and here we are. We have made things impossibly complicated for ourselves - we are absolutely convinced that we have to do spectacular, impressive things in order to leave some sort of mark on the world. And so we run ourselves into the ground trying to impress and please everybody around us. I would dare to say that God is not pleased with this.
A good friend of mine was telling me about her Daddy the other day. He passed away some time ago. She said that she doesn't so much remember his face anymore. She remembers his strong arms and hands because he used them to build, fix, and create. When we are children we zero in on the simple and important things, don't we? Here is a blessing left behind and it's so simple: strong arms and hands that can put things back together. When we leave the world, we will not leave behind much more than the love we invested in our primary relationships. And that will be enough.
Can I tell you what I want these days?
I want to spend more time with my husband and less time with my email accounts (yes - plural. For work. For church. For OneLittleLight. For junk mail. Even for contacts piled up over years and years of moving around).
I want to run and walk and take more pictures of beautiful plants and bugs.
I want to have long talks with my little sister because she is brilliant.
I want to learn more things from my parents. And I want to see my grandparents more often . . . to tell them how important they are.
I want to have quiet conversations over coffee with a few very close friends . . . and then not post on Facebook about it (imagine that!) . . .
I want to say "No." with a smile on my face because it's not a bad word.
I want to invest energy only in the things that God tugs me toward, leaving the rest to whoever else God is calling to pitch in.
want to leave social guilt behind for good. And I want to gently remind others that they can, too.
I'm probably going to fail! Multiple times! That's alright. This is a start. And you have to start somewhere.
Don't be afraid to keep it simple. God knows who you are.