Boundaries are Made for Testing, Right?

What do you mean, I can’t use that word? That’s ridiculous!

I intended to write this month about a certain athletic event. It would provide fodder for some great discussions on running the race set before us, keeping our eye on the prize, and so forth. BUT, that particular event has all sorts of copyright laws prohibiting a business from using a whole smattering of terms until after August 24th. Though I’m not a business, I hope to be some day. So I will honor that law whether I like it or not.

I actually get it. For those businesses who’ve invested millions in sponsorship, they have the right to the profits first. And even if I don’t get it, I’m generally the sort of person who isn’t that interested in testing the boundaries. I usually trust that rules exist for a good reason. I also simply don’t like to get into arguments over things I could easily avoid. I believe there are times we need to stand up for ourselves but those times are very rare.

However, there are some personalities that love to challenge the lines. They must think those lines are made of elastic that can be stretched (and then get mad when they come snapping back at them). Others just wait until no one’s looking and cross them anyway. Others just step over them, whether anyone’s noticing or not, and when questioned say, “What line?” (And, seriously, I’m not sure they ever noticed the line.)


Riding breathlessly in the back of Russian taxis my husband and I realized the solid yellow line in the middle of the highway meant absolutely nothing. We decided another name for taxi was prayer closet. My kids came from this culture which gave confusing messages about lines. Either the lines didn’t matter, or they were so tightly drawn you had to cross them to survive. Trying to teach my kids about boundaries was difficult. In fact, in many cases, I’m not sure we succeeded.

In 2011, I joined three other adoptive moms on a trip to Russia. My goal was to learn as much as I could about the culture that birthed my kids so I could better understand and support them. One early morning I scrunched next to one of my companions in a 24-hour Moscow diner as we listened to a man who’d help run an orphanage and was now in touch with government higher-ups. His insights were fascinating. He told us that orphans will push as hard as they can against boundaries because they are desperate to find someone who is stronger than they are. They are looking for someone strong enough to provide the security they need.

My husband and I were pretty good boundary setters. We always started with a thin, clear line. If that got crossed we reminded once, often using humor, but the next time the line got thicker, then thicker. Sometimes I wondered if we were going to have to build a wall – with barbed wire on top. Now that my kids are all parents themselves, we witness how they too draw pretty good lines. We also have great relationships with each of them. It seems to me, standing our ground and enforcing our boundaries provided what they needed.

We all parent differently, but we all have to draw boundaries for our kids. All kids need them. And at times, those lines will be tested. Frankly, that’s an important part of our children’s growth. We need to allow for that while teaching our kids how lines can appropriately be challenged. Lines at times need to be moved. Maybe we realize we’re being too strict, or that the lines were necessary when the child was younger. But this should only be done once the child has learned to respect boundaries.

And hasn’t our Father God done the same. He’s drawn plenty of lines for us – all based on a foundational ten. When we remember that Father is 100 percent loving, we know that all his boundaries are for our good – many serve as a guard rail to keep us from crashing and others to give us something to hold when we can’t see the way ahead.

God's Word a Handrail

So ridiculous or not, like it or not, I will respect this boundary placed in front of me. It’s not going to hurt me. And it will allow honor be given to whom honor is due. And on August 29th, look for the blog I was going to post today.

©Cheri Johnson August 2016


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