Messages are uttered in so many ways. Bold statements blurted out from the too familiar, boisterous co-worker, stranger on the street, billboard, or TV commercial. The grandchild that pops a question of “aha” magnitude. The Sunday sermon from the pastor or the simple architecture of a chapel set in the woods. The faithful spouse who knows your every fault, but loves you all heart and soul anyway. The quiet utterance of a sunset or springtime walk into fresh sprouts of greens and purples in the woods. The songbird singing his lovely tune to the world. Oh, the shout of that big Texas moon on a spring night! The stone structure or tree still standing despite time and weather. Messages are all around us everyday. Are you listening?
I recently used the word “boundary” in the family text chain to address the political hot topic taking place that crossed the guidelines of what we all previously agreed on, at least that is what I thought. In my husband’s family they are very polarized in their political views. You are either Republican or Democrat, no in between. I beg your pardon, but I am not a party voter; I am an issues voter. We all agreed to not discuss politics on this text chain as it always produces heated conversation and disrespectful words. On January 6, the day the protest turned to a deadly riot at the nation’s capital building, a few of the Democrats hollered with their disrespectful words at the Republicans on this family chat. It was sad to make it such a personal matter. With an attempt to stop the bickering, I simply wrote a text “I thought we agreed not to go here.” More disrespect proceeded. After a rapid-fire chain of more angry texts, I finally ended the heated words with “Family, the word is called ‘boundaries’ and you crossed them.” You could hear crickets after that, or least on this text chain. Who knows what words were said in their homes and on their other emotional outlets such as Facebook and Twitter? My brother said the same of the Peace & Justice committee at church. The Democrats and Republicans sparred during their recent virtual committee meeting to the point that the pastor had to stop it with, “Is this not what this group is against? Peace, brothers and sisters, peace!”
Boundaries abide in our lives in various forms. And they are here to stay. It is how God designed His people and His earth. Look at nature and the natural boundaries of a river. The riverbank keeps the river water flowing inside its natural boundary walls. During the spring thaw with the snow melts and rainstorms, flooding can occur. Man-made are the houses and buildings built in the flood zones. There is a sign standing in a farmer’s field going north on the Mississippi River road, Highway 79 that says “They call it a floodplain ‘cause it is plain to see it floods here! Remember the flood of ’93?” Still, more construction continues in the floodplains.
To some people, the word “boundary” conveys restrictions and rules that bind. While others make it their life’s mission to cross boundaries as a statement “you can’t tell me what to do!” Look at how many lawless criminals we have in our justice systems or need to be. The pervert who violates the boundaries by touching a child relative or neighbor inappropriately or the boss who stands over his female assistant gawking and intimidates her by invading her space with his words and leering. The taxpayer who cheats on their tax filing crossed a boundary. I believe in finding and taking advantage of loopholes but be honest, so we all benefit from the taxes you paid.
Another portion of people think “oh, I’ll do this just this one time, I won’t get caught”. But then it becomes a pattern and eventually a habit they are sucked into. One too many youths and adults have tried cocaine just once, only to crave more of it. Others dabble with an illicit relationship. “Once a cheat, always a cheat” is what society will say about the unfaithful spouse. Can you trust him again? Other folks do not mean to a cross a boundary but do so out of ignorance or immaturity. Ever hear of the saying “being at the wrong place at the wrong time” or “being with the wrong person at the wrong time”? Immaturity may result in a job termination, injury, death, court hearing, jail time, ruined reputation, divorce, or a damaged relationship. Unless you choose to learn from your mistake, a pattern of mistrust in oneself or in relationships may result.
For those who will say “rules are meant to be broken,” there is a degree of truth to that statement. For those who say this, I can say “yes”, sometimes. When a rule infringes on the rights of another based on a discrimination or prejudice, we need to evaluate and make the circumstance a fair game for all. When a boss micromanages or a workplace with too many rules stifling creativity or worse mistreats an employee or a segment of employees, the employee(s) can speak up for change. Granted we are not always heard, so then there is an opportunity to leave and move on to a better work environment. Same holds true in our personal relationships.
What does the word “boundary” mean? And where did the word originate from? The Oxford dictionary has two definitions.
- A line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
- A limit of a subject or sphere of activity.
The origin of the word “boundary” is from the English from the early 1600’s. This word is a variant of the word “bounder” meaning an outlaw, dishonorable or unscrupulous man. Maybe more so of “limitary”, setting limits; subject to restrictions. Its usage in our language increased gradually over the years with a surge between 1960 to 2010. Maybe something to do with our women’s liberation movement, experimental drugs, free love, and civil rights era? We had to have a word to describe those braless days, LSD trips, long-haired hippies, religious cults, nudist colonies, and violent protests. Currently, the usage of “boundary” is on a downhill. I wonder what word in our language replaced “boundary” because boundaries are still needed in 2021?
For some folks, when the word “boundary” is used, it provides a sense of security and a knowing of what to expect. Consider the sacred scriptures of several religions: The Old and New Testaments for Christians, the Torah for Jews, the Catechism for Catholics, the Tripitaka for Buddhist, and the Koran for the Muslims. These are filled with wisdom and laws to abide by. For an example a proverb (23:10 & 11) in the Old Testament says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for strong is their Redeemer who will take up their case against you.” Ancient boundaries protect our children. This is a positive aspect of a boundary. But some barriers need to come down.
The promise I hold onto from the New Testament is, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” ~Ephesians 2:14.
Ice and snow rang in the new year. If it is not the virus, it is the weather that keeps me close to home. So many dreams and plans put off during the pandemic. And we are not through with the COVID pandemic with millions of people to still be vaccinated. Maybe it was a job change, retirement, wedding, or a dream vacation deferred. Birthday and holiday celebrations with family and friends altered. Or not being able to be with a loved one while they were sick, or worse while they died. Lingering side effects from the virus? I have not had COVID but my heart was sick some days. How about yours? Many times we cannot understand God’s ways, or the ways of this world. The wait, why?
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, the old proverb tell us. There is the other half of that proverb which says “but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 ESV). Studying closer this verse in Proverbs, here is a commentary from the 1600’s English nonconformist theologian, Matthew Poole: “Hope deferred; delays in obtaining that good which a man passionately desireth and hopeth for. The desire; the good desired and expected; acts being oft put for the objects, It is a tree of life; it is most sweet, and satisfactory, and reviving.“ Comparing Proverbs 13:12 to other scriptures, Proverbs 3:18 the “tree of life” connects wisdom and happiness. The NLT version says, “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”
Despite this dreary, wintry start, I still welcome the New Year like the finches outside on the feeders. Each waits a turn at the feeder. I embrace the hope and wisdom of a better year in 2021. What is the good you desire? Dig deep using the gift of wisdom God instilled in you. Discern and know God has made you sufficient for such a time as this. Those deep roots have the tree of life for you. Happiness will be life to you when you hold onto the hope and the wisdom.
Remember the serenity prayer …
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
In other words … let go, let God. Easier said than done. And why is that? I will speak for myself. There are times, even some days I am not present moment with God. I think too much. I think I can take this one more thing on, figure it out on my own. God gives us a brain and wants us to use it. It is also Him who gives us the wisdom on how to use it. But sometimes I overstep God. “Here let me do this so it gets done”, like God is not fast enough to answer my prayers or He wants me to do everything but pray. Or “I know what is best”, like I am placing myself better than God! Or how about this one, “doesn’t God hear me?” God is Omnipresent. He hears and knows everything even before I verbally speak the words or know what the need is.
I am writing these words to myself today. A reminder of what I know already, but need to know today as The Truth For Today. There are so many needs within the family as well as the people God has surrounded me with. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”. Serenity means “the state of calm, peaceful, untroubled, and tranquil”. I cannot change the health conditions of my daughters, my sons, my siblings, my cousins, my friends, my colleagues. I am praying for Your comfort and Your healing touch to each of these people on my heart today. There are many, God. My heart is heavy today. Lift this heaviness as I give each of them to You. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7