What's the difference between a boundary and a barrier? A boundary allows free flowing passage of nurturing, healthy relationships. A barrier, while protecting you, limits your ability to build healthy relationships. I don't think that's how God wants us to live.
I am blessed to have a strong, supportive circle of friendships in which I can laugh, be sad, be scared, be "extra", or...on occasion, vent in a spattering of words not suitable for this newsletter. When we realize that God designed friendships for our benefit, we can recognize and embrace the ones He brings to us. At the same time, it makes it easier to let go of toxic, non-productive relationships that we hold on to for the sake of comfort, nostalgia...or even spite.
When Jesus sent out the seventy disciples in Luke 10, he sent them out in pairs. We aren't meant to go it alone. This particular passage really helped me to develop boundaries without constructing barriers. It's how I've been able to keep my heart from being bitter or resentful. If you read the book you'll understand what I mean. I have plenty of reasons to protect myself because I have been wounded, abused, and abandoned. Yet, I have only one reason to stay hopeful and keep my heart open... Jesus. That one reason is bigger, better, and more powerful than any circumstance life could have thrown at me.
I want to encourage you to set boundaries without building barriers. When I reflect on Jesus' instruction to the seventy in Luke 10, I remember three things about my friendships...
It's rough out there. (v.3)
Listen, you're going to get hurt. People are vicious. Those who aren't vicious, may still unintentionally hurt your feelings. Jesus told the disciples he was sending them out as "lambs among wolves." He didn't tell them to become wolves to deal with this harsh reality.
Barrier: Treat people like they treat you. Show them what it feels like to be hurt and disregarded. Become a wolf!
Boundary: Stay true to who you are and treat people with love and kindness, especially when they don't deserve it.
Jesus had three really close friends: Peter, James, and John. They fell asleep while they were supposed to be keeping watch for him. If Jesus' friends weren't perfect, neither are yours. (Matthew 26:36-46) Friendship is the journey to unconditional love. It's the voyage where we work out our insecurities, build our character, and develop our ability to live out the principles of our faith: love, forgiveness, grace, generosity, etc.
It won't always be comfortable. (v.4)
Jesus told the seventy disciples not to take any money, food, etc. He didn't say they would have to do without it. Jesus has nothing against food and money. He enjoyed plenty of both during his ministry. But taking those things with them would give them a false sense of comfort and security. Trust God to protect you in your relationships, even when it's uncomfortable.
Barrier: Make people fully earn your trust before you really become their friend. Secretly keep score of negative encounters.
Boundary: Share authentically in your relationships. You don't have to tell everything that's true, but make sure that everything you tell is true.
I shared a lot in TOYI ELIZABETH. I didn't share everything, but what I did share is true. Don't built a barrier to hide your authentic self. If your friendships work, great. If they don't...
Kick the dust from your feet and move on. (V.10-11)
Everybody is not going to appreciate how marvelous the Lord has made you. After several attempts to make the friendship fruitful, you may need to end the relationship. It's painful, but it happens. When it does, accept it and swiftly move on. There doesn't need to be a lot of drama. Wipe the dust from your feet to show that "we have abandoned you to your fate."
Barrier: Make the other person your enemy. Criticize, gossip about, or disparage the other person.
Boundary: Accept that the friendship isn't God's will for your life. Pray for your friend to find the love of Jesus. Open your heart and your eyes to true friendships that God wants to bring into your life.
In Matthew 26:50, Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek before turning him over to be crucified. Jesus responded, "Friend, why have you come?" Jesus knew exactly who Judas was. More importantly, he knew who he was and stayed true to God's purpose for his life. He let Judas be Judas, which allowed Jesus to be Jesus.
Have you set boundaries or built barriers that are negatively affecting your relationships? Take some time this month to examine your friendships.
"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." - Proverbs 27:17