Fall Discovery: How to Set Wise Boundaries

Most of us are not masters at setting boundaries. However, I think we can agree that all of us are in need of them. We need boundaries for our sanity and our security. Since I am not a good source of limits, I look to my Father who is the master creator of boundaries.

On the day time began, our Father spoke boundaries into the formless, empty darkness before Him. He separated darkness from light. Sky from water. Land from sea. He split day and night. He eventually split a rib so that man would not be alone. Genesis 1 & 2.

God is the master of boundaries. I don’t often know when or how to create them, but he speaks them out of wisdom and love. The Word often uses the analogy of the sea when it comes to boundaries. Proximity to the ocean and its view are peace for me. But the ocean also rages, just like our lives. God has a plan for our peace in the midst of the raging sea.

When worry and anxiety strike and control is something you don’t have, God provides the boundaries. We are not out at sea without cover. We are children of God whose nature it is to create boundaries. As his daughters and sons, we can believe and trust that the hard thing won’t consume us.

Security in the Storm

The next few verses have been safety for me when I don’t have insight to the resolution or outcome. In other words, I am speaking of the stage of circumstance when there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The chaotic season, the fearful season. The lost in the dark season. These verses give us security to know we are protected while we are in the middle of the storm. The full verses are at the bottom of this blog if you want to read more.

The one who has your best interest in mind limits the stretch of the proud waves. He rebukes chaos and puts everything in its place. God limits transgressions so that they cannot flood you. Even when the circumstances of your life are roaring against you, God places a perpetual barrier around you.

Can you feel the safety net around you? Can you feel the promise that there is no drowning in chaos? Can you believe that no matter the rage of the storm, barriers exist to protect you?

If we know, believe and trust the character of our Father, it makes sense that he holds the wisdom to help us express boundaries in our own lives.

Boundaries can feel complicated, well, because relationships and responsibilities are complicated. But there is a simple starting point that has worked for me.

You Have Control of Your 24 Hours

If you know God protects you, what in your daily practices will you protect? We know that daily practices are key to living a peaceful, productive, purposeful life. Simply start with your calendar. This is the aspect of your life where you can push back proud waves, tame chaos and create barriers. You, my dear sister, have control of the twenty-four hours a day that belong to you.

I’ve been working on this in my own life for a few years. Below are a few bullets that represent some of my daily and weekly practices. I may not be in the same season as you. We may have different likes and resources. You will have to brainstorm within your specific life circumstances. The point of my sharing is to provide evidence of how intentional daily practices are the stepping stones to strong boundaries.

Daily & Weekly Practices

  • Monday Verse of the Week, Prayer list and Inspirational Quote
  • Weekly Bible Study in a group
  • Tuesday Physical Therapy
  • No Cooking on Friday nights
  • Sunday Night Review for the week
  • Weekly act to replenish my joy
  • Weekly act of kindness towards another
  • Mail a snail mail card to someone every week
  • Regular blogging and posting
  • 2-3 walks at the beach
  • 2-3 yoga workouts

Whether or not you can relate to any of these daily and weekly practices, consider how the carving out of space for these practices results in the small steps of boundaries. As you take responsibility for the time you have been given and protect your resources, you are effectively splitting your life into yeses and nos. As you separate and split your time in positive ways, you are mirroring your Father. You are honoring your Father.

Creating boundaries in your personal life sets in motion boundaries for the rest of your life. When I am exercising my positive spiritual, mental and physical boundaries, I can offer more clarity, love and intentionality in my friendships and parenting. I can offer understanding and realism in my marriage. I can give work what it’s due but not my blood.

Boundaries Rock the Boat

When you are a woman with boundaries, you rock the boat and rile up proud, raging waves. Your opposition doesn’t like the path of your life when you are living a peaceful, productive, purposeful life with boundaries in place. Your opposition prefers that you wear yourself down and out – –  especially in the areas you are most vulnerable or insecure. The opposition intends to stop you from growing in depth, calling and wisdom.

As you assert boundaries, attacks come. Arrows hit. In these moments, we can allow these arrows to point us toward old, unhealthy ways such as

  • Overcommitting your calendar
  • Staying in toxic friendships, organizations or business relationships
  • Allowing work to take more than its allotted time on a regular basis
  • Spending more financial resources than you have or in the wrong areas
  • Taking on the needs or problems of others while neglecting your own

Or, we can interpret the arrows as opportunities to hold tight to our boundaries, even if our actions rock the boat.

Lesson in Boundaries

Recently, I had a prior client make untrue claims and unfair demands. I decided to stand by my firm’s work. At the same time, I attended to her requests to the best of my ability. In the end, my efforts failed to please her. She filed a formal complaint against me and her view of me has remained negative.

Without boundaries, I may have met her unfair demands. In this case, that would have solved the problem in a way that didn’t honor my time, credibility or resources. I maintained my boundaries and had to stretch myself to deal with the resulting “raging sea”. That was a tough arrow for me as it hit me in a place of insecurity. Who am I if I can’t make everyone happy? Am I still worthy or valuable in the face of other’s negative opinions?

I thought several times, was this experience worth setting a healthy boundary? When it comes to my bend toward people pleasing in a way that doesn’t honor my time, credibility or resources, this was an exercise of growth. Boundaries really do rock the boat. Maintaining the boundary cost me time and emotional stress. At the same time, maintaining the boundary is also growing my worth, resilience and faith. God places wise boundaries and I can do the same.

In Another Instance

In another instance, I was involved in a community project. In that role, I found myself regularly questioning my worth, attempting to earn my value and over exerting myself in areas that are not my strengths. I defaulted to an equation where if I worked hard enough, the dynamic would change. In obedience to God’s direction in my life, I decided to humbly step away. It took a full year for my soul to heal. Until writing this blog, I had not realized how important my eventual boundary was in this scenario. I pray for you and for me to learn to mirror our Father and place timely, fitting, protective boundaries in our lives.

Imagine That

Imagine yourself as a woman of worth with protections around you that are set by the authority of God. Can you shift your mindset to believe that the opportunity to set boundaries is there to grow and prosper you and not to harm you or hurt others? Can you stay alert and not be caught off guard by arrows that seek to open wounds that Jesus has healed or is healing?

My examples above may not feel as heavy to you as some of the circumstances you may be facing such as abuse or betrayal. Look less at the facts of the story and more at the lesson at hand. My experiences may be preparing you or me for bigger steps in the area of boundaries.

Stand Your Ground

When we are in the heavy circumstances of life, we don’t have to be unprepared or without clarity or direction. The Word tells us

. . . to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm . . . Ephesians 6:13-14

. . . Rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produced perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us . . . Romans 5:3-5

. . . walk in freedom for we are devoted to God’s commandments. Psalm 119:45

Let’s acknowledge how hard standing our ground can be. Let’s be candid about the process of perseverance and suffering. Obedience that leads to freedom costs us something. These are hard precepts. Hard promises. Hard love.

Let’s also recognize what God has done for us by example. He split the day from the night for our well-being. It’s not the other way around. We are not meant to be split open through overcommitting our calendar, overspending our resources or staying where we are not called to be. The unboundaried life does not get to choose how we live for Jesus. The boundaried life is one that models Jesus in wise choices of yeses and nos.

Do you feel the protection of that? Can you feel the perpetual barrier around you? Can you believe that creating boundaries are good despite how we may feel in the moment?

Mirror Your Father

Let’s mirror the Father and follow his example of setting wise boundaries.

You may come this far, but no farther; your proud waves stop here. Job 38:8-11

You set a boundary they cannot cross. Psalm 104:5-9

He set a limit for the sea so that the waters would not violate his command. Proverbs 8:27

The waves surge, but they cannot prevail. They roar but cannot pass over it. Jeremiah 5:22

Begin with a reflection of your daily practices. Stick to them not because you are a rigid person but because these practices are your lifeline to expanding boundaries in your life.

Know that setting boundaries will rock the boat. Stand firm. The same God that split night and day holds back the waters for your good. Mirror Him. You can trust the God who split open his body to make you whole.

Remember . . . the one who has your best interest in mind limits the stretch of the proud waves. He rebukes chaos and puts everything in its place. God limits transgressions so that they cannot flood you. Even when the circumstances of your life are roaring against you, God places a perpetual barrier around you.

Reflection Questions

Of the four verses describing limits, which one provides you the most security that God has your back in difficult circumstances?

What do you think about the concept that daily and weekly practices are the springboard to strong boundaries? Write a list of your current practices. Pray about adding one or two. Pray about removing one or two that are not promoting growth in this season.

What circumstance in your life feels like a raging sea? What yeses or nos can you decide upon today to start a path of healthy boundaries?

You know boundaries are working when the opposition increases. What are some ways you can stand firm and continue to cultivate a boundaried life?

Full Verses

[I] enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb . . . [I] made the clouds its garment and total darkness its blanket, [I] determined its boundaries and put its bars and doors in place, [I] declared: “You may come this far, but no farther; your proud waves stop here.” Job 38:8-11

You established the earth on its foundations; it will never be shaken. You covered it with the deep as with a garment, the water stood above the mountains. At your rebuke the water fled; at the sound of your thunder they hurried away. Mountains rose and valleys sank to the place you established for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross, they will never cover the earth again. Psalm 104:5-9

I was there when he established the heavens, when he laid out the horizon on the surface of the ocean, when he placed the skies above, when the foundations of the ocean gushed out, when he set a limit for the sea so that the waters would not violate his command, when he laid out the foundations of the earth. Proverbs 8:27

Do you not fear me? This is the Lord’s declaration. Do you not tremble before me, the one who set the sand as the boundary of the sea, an enduring barrier that it cannot cross? The wave surge, but they cannot prevail. They roar but cannot pass over it. Jeremiah 5:22

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