(Boundaries: Home for the Holidays Part 2)
We started this series with an overview of interpersonal boundaries. As a reminder:
- Boundaries are like property lines which separate your responsibilities from other peoples’.
- We are each responsible for our own Beliefs, Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions.
- Healthy boundaries make space for obedience to God (value-aligned living).
Now we are going to look at boundaries Jesus set while he was here on the Earth to see what kind of principles we can apply to our own lives and relationships. I’ve linked the 6 scripture passages for you so this post isn’t any longer than it has to be and also so you can view them in your favorite translation on BibleGateway.com.
First, Luke 5:15-16.
Jesus made time for self-care. Specifically, spiritual self-care in this verse. He could have spent every waking moment teaching, healing, traveling – trying to reach every single person who needed him, but he made time to connect with God. Even when it meant hiding out in “lonely places”. There is no end to the good things we could be doing for the people around us, but God is not asking us to do all of them! Part of healthy boundaries is making time to connect with God, regardless of the number of demands being made on your time, and doing what he wants you to instead of what everyone else wants you to.
The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus by making him responsible for this woman’s sin. They were also trying to make Jesus responsible for their own sin. See the Law of Moses which the Pharisees referenced says both the woman and the man committing adultery were to be stoned, but they only brought the woman which suggests they might have set this up. Their motivation was not to keep the people’s hearts pure and close to God. They were willing to sacrifice this woman for their own benefit, and let Jesus bear the consequences of enforcing the Law. Jesus handed their responsibility right back to them, and bearing the responsibility for their own actions (their sins, both past and present) changed their current course. Jesus did the same with the woman. He showed her compassion with truth about her need to change her behavior. His compassion didn’t release her from responsibility for her actions.
We don’t have to get caught up in scapegoating at family gatherings. Sacrificing someone else by shaming them for their unwise decisions doesn’t release us from responsibility for our own actions. Neither do we have to participate or get pulled into such interactions.
The disciples could have woken Jesus up and asked for his help. They had already seen him heal may people and drive out demons, and supposedly they believed in him. Instead, they panicked and accused Jesus of not caring if they died because he wasn’t already doing what they hadn’t asked for. They were trying to make Jesus responsible for their fear. Instead of taking responsibility for the disciples’ emotions, Jesus first graciously removed the source of their fear then addressed the issue. He was not responsible for their fear. Their own lack of faith caused their terror, not his lack of action.
How many times to we accuse people of not caring about us when they don’t anticipate our needs or read our minds? How much pain and angst do we cause ourselves by not communicating, but try to pass the buck to someone else? Part of taking responsibility for our “stuff” is communicating our wants and needs. Our family and friends can’t read minds, even during the holidays.
Jesus said something which made this group angry enough to do him physical harm. Since this is Jesus we know he wasn’t sinning. He was speaking the truth and doing so with love for the purpose of bringing people closer to God. They still wanted to kill him. Jesus didn’t argue with them. He didn’t try to make them understand or change their minds. He didn’t even defend himself physically. He just walked away.
I hope your holiday doesn’t include a moment when you need to avoid physical violence, but if it does – follow Jesus’ example and just leave. Don’t argue, fight, try to make them understand or change their minds. Just leave. That’s setting a healthy physical boundary.
Even if there isn’t a threat of physical violence you can still leave if your’e being verbally assaulted. Or, even better, leave before it gets that far!
Perhaps if either of those are a possibility the healthiest decision is not to go at all.
People with unhealthy boundaries won’t like it when you set healthy ones. Take responsibility for your “stuff” anyway. They can have their chaos without you.
Just in case you’re the one with the anger issues – you can leave too. When you feel that heat start to rise, that tension, whatever it is that happens inside you before you blow – just walk away. You don’t have to force your pain and anger on anyone else. That won’t make you feel better, I promise. Go somewhere alone and talk to God about what you’re feeling, thinking, wanting, and needing. That’s healthy boundaries.
After Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 (plus women and children) the people were so pleased they were ready to make him their king. Seems like a good thing right? So why would Jesus “withdraw again to the mountain by himself”? Jesus went back to the mountain alone to pray. The people wanted him to be their king, but not because he was the King of Kings. They wanted him to be who they wanted him to be, how they wanted him to be, when they wanted him to be it. God’s plan for Jesus’ kingdom was very different and involved great suffering for him. Even so, Jesus wanted to be who God wanted him to be.
You can take responsibility for your beliefs and thoughts. You are not who your family says you are. You don’t have to do what they say you “always do”. You don’t have to believe what they tell you about yourself if it isn’t in line with who God says you are. Your identity, value, and purpose can only be found in your relationship with God, not in your family’s opinions or approval.
Finally, John 5:1-14.
This is my favorite passage in this post because I identify so much with the man who Jesus healed. The reason so many sick people were congregating around this pool is because there was a local belief that an angel would randomly come stir the water and cause it to bubble. When the water bubbled whoever got in first would be healed of their disease or infirmity. So Jesus saw this man who’d been disabled for 38 years, and asked him if he wanted to be healed.
Why would Jesus ask such an obvious question? Notice the man didn’t say, “Yes! I want that more than anything! Could you help me?” Instead he blamed his condition on other people. Jesus healed him anyway. When the man was confronted by the Jewish religious leaders for breaking the Sabbath he blamed Jesus.
He refused to take responsibility for himself. He couldn’t even say he wanted to get well. His condition was his identity and he believed he was powerless to do anything about his life. His attitude didn’t change after he was healed, so Jesus confronted him later in the temple. Now, this isn’t Precious Moments Jesus we usually see in Sunday School. This is: not afraid to initiate conflict to help people grow when they’re stuck Jesus. Also, this is not a threat born out of Jesus’ frustration over being unappreciated. Jesus is encouraging the man to change because if he doesn’t take responsibility for his “stuff” Jesus knows the guy will end up worse off than if Jesus had never healed him in the first place. Jesus openly communicated his expectations for what the man would do with Jesus’ help.
Don’t be that guy! Don’t return to old, false identities, hurts, and insecurities when you go “home”. Don’t start blaming everyone else for your lack of growth. When Jesus asks if you want to be healed from the pain of family drama, say yes please and take responsibility for your “stuff”.
Next week we’ll look at one of the biggest illusions we buy into which keeps us imprisoned to drama and how to stop believing it.
Until then, consider how each of these boundaries Jesus set might apply to your own life. Remember – you’re thinking about what you can change, not what other people are doing wrong, because you are taking responsibility for your stuff!