Boundaries and Balance, Part 1

 

 

“Tree and Stone Wall” Yorkshire Dales (Petr Kratochvil), Image in public domain

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. –Genesis 1:1 NIV

My favorite poet, Robert Frost, wrote a poem called “Mending Wall,” in which two neighbors take a springtime walk along the wall dividing their property, replacing stones and rebuilding the wall after the winter.

I understand why they had to do this. Our house is situated on a hillside, and landscaping the sloped yard presented a bit of a challenge. So my husband built a stone wall in the yard below the house to hold back the soil and keep it from moving. Every spring, though, after a winter of the ground freezing and thawing, expanding and contracting, my husband has to replace the stones that have shifted or fallen off completely.

In our case, the wall doesn’t mark a boundary, but serves to beautify the property and, more importantly, to retain the soil to keep it from shifting and eroding.

The fence around our garden, however, is anything but aesthetic—especially when I tie plastic grocery bags on the thin, flexible wire to scare away the country critters. In this case, the boundary serves to keep the unwanted out.

My neighbors have fences, too—electrified boundaries to keep their horses and cows in the pastures designated for them. “Good fences make good neighbors,” Frost wrote. I agree. I don’t want my neighbors’ horses and cows wandering in my yard, even though the fertilizer they’d leave behind could be used on the garden.

Walls, fences, boundaries serve different purposes: to hold back, retain, keep the unwanted out and the wanted in, mark property lines, and in some cases, beautify. In order to have order and not chaos, we need to establish and maintain boundaries.

Take creation, for instance. At first the earth was “a shapeless, chaotic mass” (Genesis 1:2 TLB). Then God established boundaries: He separated the light (day) from the darkness (night), the water from the sky, the seas from the dry land. The first man and woman were given a boundary, too—not to eat of a certain tree. And when they did (Frost also wrote, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”), a boundary was placed around Eden (see Genesis 3:24).

When God gave His people, the Israelites, boundaries in the form of the Ten Commandments, He wanted to protect them, not hinder or hurt them. But once again, Frost’s observation, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” came into play.

Boundaries are a vital part of society. Without them, everyone would do what’s right in their own eyes (see Judges 21:25), and chaos would reign.

A life without boundaries, then, is not a life of freedom, a life to do what you want when you want, how you want, and how long you want. Pull out all the stops and what do you have? Chaos, catastrophe, destruction, disaster.

US Forest Service, Image in public domain

Just look at the wildfires in California. Fire contained brings us warmth, gives us cooked food, relaxes us. But fire uncontained produces destruction.

Look at the devastation caused by the flooding in Texas. Water within its bounds provides us with transportation, nourishment, energy, and pleasure.

Harvey Day 5-12, August 30, 2017, Photo by J. Daniel Escareno (from flickr.com)

Look at Florida after Hurricane Irma blasted through. Wind within a certain range gives us refreshing breezes, energy, electricity. Wind unrestrained results in disaster.

Irma image courtesy of Cayobo (flickr.com)

In her Bible study Breathe Priscilla Shirer states, “Boundaries are not burdens. They are gifts.”

Over the next week, I want you to think about the boundaries in your life. What are they? What purposes do they serve? Do they hinder or help? Are they burdens or gifts?

Open my mind, heart, and spirit, O Lord, to what You want to reveal to me about the boundaries in my life. Amen.

NOTE: Next week, we’ll continue the series “Boundaries and Balance” by examining personal boundaries.

Read and meditate on Genesis 1–3

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

A Time for Change

 

To find more of Karen’s books, click on the image.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He. I am He who will sustain you. –Isaiah 46:4 NIV

Outside on a makeshift table—a wooden pallet resting on two waist-high saw horses—is the last batch of tomatoes from the garden. Glory hallelujah!

While I’m thankful for a good crop of tomatoes this year, I’m ready to throw in my canning towel. And while I’m not ready to throw out the gardening tools altogether, I am ready to make next year’s garden smaller. A dozen tomato plants instead of two dozen. No corn, since it hasn’t done well and takes up too much room.

And I wonder—what “plants” in my personal life take up too much room for what little they produce? Both time and energy are dwindling these days. I just remarked to someone yesterday—at a funeral, no less—that the older I get, the faster time goes and the slower I go.

Time doesn’t really move any faster than it did when I was 21, 31, 41, 51, or even 61. But here I am, nearly 66, and I’m just realizing this old, not-gray-yet mare just ain’t what she used to be.

This came as a shock. I saw others getting older and slower, and I knew that day would eventually come to me. But I wasn’t ready for it. And here it is.

What am I going to do about it?

First, prayerfully, thoughtfully, and carefully scrutinize my schedule and determine what to keep and what to cut. When you’re spread too thin, you can’t give your best.

I want—I need—rest and relaxation time to restore and refresh my body, mind, and spirit. This includes leisure reading, crocheting, and just sitting on the swing watching the leaves turn and the clouds float across the autumn sky. This has been lacking.

Family time is also important—my grandkids are growing up too fast—as is time to take care of household duties.

Then there are my ministries: my little flock (I’m a lay speaker/pastor) and my writing, which includes this column and fiction.

What to cut and what to keep?

A friend gave me a card I posted on my workstation that reads, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Psalm 37 gives some good advice as I ponder taking that first step:

  • Don’t fret (v. 1).
  • Trust in the Lord (v. 3; also see v. 4).
  • Commit my way to Him (v. 5).
  • Be still (v. 7).
  • Wait patiently (v. 7).

I’ll be the first to admit those last two are hard!

As I ponder and pray about what’s next for me, I rest on God’s promise: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He. I am He who will sustain you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Life circumstances change. People change. We change. But God never will.

What changes are you facing today?

Thank You, Lord God, that whatever my future holds, You are already there. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ecclesiastes 3:1–8; Psalm 37

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.