Here’s the deal. I think that boundaries feel mean, unloving, and ungodly.
Let me tell you specifically where I struggle with this. It’s fragile so please handle with care.
I’ve been reading Lysa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget”. To be honest, in the first few chapters I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t think I needed this book as much as I thought I would.
I’ve been divorced for 8 years.
I don’t carry anger or bitterness or even unforgiveness towards my ex or anything that happened in our marriage. I truly believe that I have forgiven those things…that doesn’t mean that my trust issues are gone, but there isn’t active anger behind it.
But when I was about to put Lysa’s book on the shelf, unfinished, I saw the title for the next chapter: Boundaries that Help Us Stop Dancing With Dysfunction.
I decided to read this one and then put it away.
I won’t give details because they aren’t all of mine to give but let’s just say that my ex is extremely hard to work with and co-parent with.
Finally my counselor said it was time to put down boundaries because this wasn’t safe or healthy for Summer or myself so we did. I felt so guilty from day one.
My struggle was that it felt incredibly mean, unloving and ungodly…like it was the exact opposite of what God calls us to do. What about 70×7??? Forgive over and over? If he slaps the one cheek, give him the other one to hit as well?
I searched for answers
but never really found any
that eased the pain and anxiety and guilt
from setting down boundaries.
Due to circumstances, my daughter has not seen her birth father now in over 2 years. This kills me.
I have never badmouthed him to her or revealed the things he has done. In fact, I’ve gone behind her back to try to encourage him to reach out to her and to not give up.
But I am DAILY riddled with guilt that I am being mean, unloving and ungodly to him.
I finally broke down two weeks ago and texted my counselor asking for steps to take to rid me of this guilt. At the same time, I began reading Lysa’s chapter on boundaries.
After all these years, I may have found some answers that satisfy. Finally.
Lysa gave two examples. The first one is that my ex is laying on train tracks and there is a train coming but he’s not panicked at all – I am. He’s laying there either in a daydream or in denial.
I’m watching him and yelling, screaming, waving my arms and red flags. I’m doing this. He’s not. And she says that:
I may rescue him today, but tomorrow he will climb right back up on the tracks because it isn’t his own heart that is changing.
She also gave the example of CPR.
You can’t do compressions for 50 years until he’s one hundred years old. At some point his heart needs to beat on its own.
Even the best doctors and nurses can take all drastic measures but if the heart eventually doesn’t start to beat independently, they have to let him go.
I realized a few things in this.
1. not only do I panic and try to rescue him from the tracks but I drag Summer onto the tracks with me.
I put her life at risk along with my own.
I try to force her to do certain things to help her birth father though she rightfully has no interest. I push and push burdens on her. I grab her by the hand saying, “Come on Summer! We’ve got to get your dad off the tracks! Come with me!”
And onto the tracks I drag her and put her in danger of a moving train bearing down on us.
I cried as I read this and tried to tell Ted about it.
And then he softly said, “It’s not just Summer you take on the tracks. You take me, and the kids and your parents and your friends because you are so consumed with saving him, that you can’t be there with us fully. You are consumed with appeasing your guilt.”
Yes. Yes this is true.
2. I need to realize that it is okay to let go.
When I first became a Beachbody fitness coach, I had a few people who would NOT workout unless I would call or text them in the morning and tell them to get up. But I thought I could do it!
So every day I would text or call.
The problem was, nothing was changing on their end. If I didn’t call or text then they weren’t getting up and working out that day. After 6 months this became frustrating!!!!
In this situation I was able to see that if they weren’t taking any responsibility to workout on their own shoulders yet, then their heart towards it wasn’t changing and I needed to let it go. I could not text or phone for the rest of my life.
At some point, they had to start making decisions to change their own life.
Same with my ex. I can not possibly hold his hand all through life and make sure he stays away from danger. I must let go. At some point, he has to start making decisions to change his own life.
3. Setting down boundaries doesn’t mean that you don’t care or love the person.
I think this is where I’ve been stuck all of these years. It felt freeing to be reminded by Lysa that you can love a person and still put down boundaries.
And I do. I love him. If I didn’t, why would I care so much? Why not just forget about him?
Sometimes boundaries are a part of what loving looks like.
4. my ex is not abandoned.
My counselor once told me that it is no longer my job to be the one to save him or change him or love him actively or show him compassion actively. At this point, there was too much risk in those things for myself and Summer.
But what I easily forget is that though God may have given me a promotion to a different job position in life, God is not in the business of downsizing. He WILL fill the position that he moved me from.
My ex is not abandoned. God has replaced me with others who now have the job to love him and show him compassion actively. I need to trust God with that. He knows how to run a business and who is best suited for all of the different job positions.
5. if we don’t put down boundaries, we are unable to fulfill what God asks us to do.
Lysa had us read Romans 12:9-21 and to consider how well we can do these things if we don’t set boundaries down in some relationships.
Things like “keep your spiritual fervor”, “patient in affliction”, “BLESS AND DO NOT CURSE”, “live in harmony”, “do not be conceited”, “live at peace with everyone”…these are things that I was struggling to do so long as I didn’t put down boundaries.
After all of this, what I finally realized is that I love God better and I can live for Him more properly, when I put down boundaries in some relationships.
If I don’t implement boundaries, I’m too angry, sad, frustrated or just plain emotional to live and love God to my best ability.
The other thing is that God is always working in us so someday we may be capable of more! We may be able to lessen some boundaries and still be able to love God better. I pray that happens some day.
But for now, I can’t love Him or others in my life properly, or be emotionally stable or mentally stable if I continue to stay at the tracks.
So all in all, there were 5 things I took away from this:
- I’m putting others in danger when I try to rescue my ex.
- It is okay to let go.
- It does NOT mean that you don’t love them or that you are a mean person.
- God will fill the position He removed you from with someone perfect for the job.
- When I learn to put down boundaries, I am able to live and love God far better than I ever thought possible.
Does someone come to mind for you? Is there a relationship where healthy boundaries are needed? Have you struggled with guilt in doing it?
Can you see how you might actually honor God more and love Him better by making some changes?
We can’t live at the tracks. We can’t stay on guard all day every day. And God doesn’t expect us to.
AND GOD DOESN’T EXPECT US TO.
Let’s walk hand in hand and leave the tracks behind us.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.