March 20, 2011

The Sunday Post

Every few years I find myself enthralled with books from the self-help genre. It's one of those years, and I picked up a bestselling book called Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I've been reflecting this Sabbath on a chapter about having good boundaries with yourself.

The authors use scripture throughout to give examples of good boundaries. First Thessalonians 4:4 says, " That every one of you should know how to posses his vessel in sanctification and honour". According to the book, indicators of a boundary problem within ourselves, or an "out-of-control soul", often includes issues with:
  • Eating (food serves as a false boundary in relationships, or is more comfortable than being in a real relationship where boundaries would be necessary)
  • Money (impulse spending, careless budgeting, credit problems, ineffectual savings plan, enabling others)
  • Time (stemming from a false sense of omnipotence, overresponsibility for the feelings of others, lack of realistic anxiety, rationalization)
  • Task Completion (stemming from a resistance to structure, fear of success, lack of follow-through, distractibility or inability to delay gratification)
  • The Tongue (talking nonstop to hide from intimacy, dominating conversations, gossiping, making sarcastic remarks, flattery, seduction)
  • Sexuality (which effectively "keeps what is broken in the soul sequestered in the darkness - out of the light of relationship with God or others")
  • Alcohol and substance abuse (clearest examples of internal boundary problems)
What struck me about this was not just the long list of problems, many of which I'm probably guilty of to some degree or another, but what is offered as the solution. The authors point out that self-discipline, though part of the answer, is not at the core of the answer. It's obvious if you look at the list, that the common thread through all of these boundary violations is relationships, and the fear of relationships - most importantly our relationship with God. From the book:

If we depend on willpower alone, we are guaranteed to fail. we are denying the power of the relationship promised on the cross. If all we need is our will to overcome evil, we certainly don't need a Savior (1 Cor. 1:17) . . . Self-denying practices that appear so spiritual don't stop out-of-control behavior. The boundaryless part of the soul simply becomes more resentful under the domination of the will - and it rebels . . . Will is only strengthened by relationships; we can't make commitments alone. God told Moses to encourage and strengthen Joshua (Duet. 3:28); he didn't tell Moses to tell Joshua to "just say no".

This makes me think of Korihor preaching that man progresses by the "management of the creature" alone. I don't believe that. I've tried to overcome many things in my life just using my will. It never works with the big things. I know I cannot repent and truly change without relationships, especially my relationship with God. I need to feel love to repent, enough love to give away the inferior comforts and to use self-discipline effectively. I realize it's up to me to initiate the strengthening of relationships in my life. I personally get closest to God through really getting in there in my prayers and having a real conversation. Telling the truth at all costs brings me to a point of profound relief and connection. And I never feel degraded (which I feel quite a bit when I try to save myself). The surprising amount of mercy I feel in overcoming teaches me that God is truly on my side. I'm feeling quite grateful this Sabbath for His friendship, for that most important relationship that I never have to be without.

Have a wonderful Sabbath!


  1. We've been teaching the Strengthening Marriage and Family class at church and this was a beautiful, pertinent post. It's also timely for me and the issues I'm personally working on. Thank you, Liz.

  2. Karina, thank you! I always appreciate your comments :).