“There is an inexhaustibility to contentment when one lives within the precepts of God’s intended purpose for life. That is what I like to call perpetual novelty or boundless wonder.” – Ravi Zacharias
Whoa. If that doesn’t completely challenge the status quo of our culture today, I don’t know what does. It also challenges me personally to intentionally live within God’s purpose for my life.
We live in a culture where living without any concrete set of morals is the norm, and changing one’s values to adapt to new circumstances and desires is perfectly acceptable. A Christian who stands by their values and doesn’t bend to cultural peer pressure is labeled a “religious zealot” or a “conservative prude.” What if it’s just integrity?
When I was around 18 and a guy found out I had never dated or kissed anyone, he called me a prude; He didn’t mean it as a compliment. When I went and looked up the definition of it I wasn’t offended. There are worse things a girl could be called.
I want contentment with whatever season I find myself in. To live with the wonder and faith of a child, trusting that my Father will take care of me. It all starts with living in His precepts. We cannot do that if we are not reading and meditating on these precepts, carving them into our hearts.
K Chesterton quips that before you remove any fence, always first ask why it was put there in the first place. So many people just want to rip down all the fences, rules, traditions, and what they consider outdated, irrelevant, conservative laws. They fail to ask the vital question of why such parameters were there in the first place. Zacharias says, “…every boundary set by God points to something worth protecting, and if you are to protect the wonder of existence, God’s instruction book is the place to turn. Anyone who thinks he or she can place boundaries arbitrarily will either destroy the enchantment of life or else wear him – or herself into exhaustion.”
In the context of purity and setting healthy boundaries in relationships, how I allow men to talk to me, and in how I carry myself, it all comes down to one question I have to ask myself. Am I worth protecting? Is my purity, integrity, and God-given value worth fighting for and defending? It’s also important to ask oneself, “Am I protecting and respecting the other person’s value?”
I once heard someone speaking on boundaries in relationships and they said something I’ll never forget. (At the time I was struggling with how to set healthy boundaries with my dad without shutting him out completely.) Boundaries are not a wall to keep people out. They are actually a doorway and invitation to relationship. They tell people how they can be a part of my life and what the parameters are. This rocked me. It started a whole paradigm shift that I didn’t even know I needed! Just like a family who refuses to discipline their child (or does so inconsistently) will lead to both the parents and child being exhausted and frustrated, living without boundaries is exhausting. Clear expectations allow no room for confusion and actually create a safety net for relationships to thrive within. It is more loving to have and maintain clear boundaries in life than to let people walk all over you.
I have had multiple situations where I’ve made a new friend or met a guy who, despite me verbalizing very clearly what my boundaries were, somehow decided I didn’t really mean what I said. They kept testing and pushing past my boundaries in ways that took me by surprise but also left me frozen with how to respond. It was, quite simply, blatant disrespect. Some people use the excuse that they are someone who likes to push/test the boundaries with everyone and talk as if it’s a good thing. I wonder if that could also be translated into people who believe their wants and desires override everyone else’s?
There is a way to be someone who tests the limits without stealing dignity or respect from other people. Successful entrepreneurs are a great example. They innovate, think outside of the box, defy the status quo, and are often downright blunt; but they are also respectful of others and have a way of making others feel great about themselves by inspiring them to be their best. They don’t prey on the vulnerabilities of others, but rather they push people to be their best by empowering them. Rather than stealing value, they add value.
When I think of testing boundaries, it is usually in a context where they have not yet been clearly laid out. The testing is for the purpose of establishing what the ground rules are so there is something to follow. When you’ve already laid out the ground rules of what makes you feel safe and what is not ok, and then someone crosses the line anyways, it is an act of disrespect and selfishness. I also have to be brutally honest and ask myself, for all the times I was in a relationship and I let my boyfriend cross the line without speaking up, what did that say about me? It’s not enough to say that he didn’t value me enough to fight his desires and hold back. I also have to admit that I didn’t value myself enough to fight my own desires and the fear of pushing him away if I did say something. They might have been small concessions on the grand scale of intimacy, but the standard I must live up to is the one God gave me, not the worlds.