Contentment & Boundaries

“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 So many people just want to rip down all the fences, rules, traditions, and what they consider outdated, irrelevant, conservative laws.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.

 

Dignity & Strength

Dignity & Strength

By Emma Doyle

 

She is clothed with dignity and strength

She can laugh without fear at the days to come.

Nobility is her inheritance, grace is her portion

A woman who speaks truth and sings freedom

 

The waters of her soul run deep

Unknown depths of love and mystery beckon

Her eyes transfixed, the final treasure

None can know the thoughts that hold her

So many voices, the countermeasure

 

Toxic and subtle, they speak in songs

Resisting the muddle and poison

She gazes ahead and persistently longs

For days of sun and an arm around her, strong

 

It’s the strength of others she draws on

The wisdom of weathered soldiers, they know

How to protect and fight for the prize

Matters of the heart, such progress is slow

 

When fall winds seek to bite and rattle

She wraps her cloak of dignity tighter

The peaceful warmth of her head covering

Protects her whole body from wavering

Everything in her knows she’s a fighter

Loneliness – An Invitation

I am exploring this thing called loneliness. Care to join me?

Here is what I am learning: Loneliness is an opportunity to invite more of His presence into our lives. It is an invitation, a dare even, to draw nearer to the only One who can fill those deep chasms…. depths that only He can see; He is not scared to go there with us. I had a revelation this morning that while loneliness is something that is part of the human condition and every person experiences it at various times…. it is not meant to be something we run from but rather something that causes us to run straight into the arms of of our Father.

The climate in which monastic prayer flowers is that of the desert, where the comfort of man is absent, where the secure routines of man’s city offer no support, and where prayer must be sustained by God in the purity of faith.” – Thomas Merton

In the desert. Check. Comfort of man absent. Check. Secure routines that offer no support. Check. I guess all that is left is prayer — having a conversation with my Father — out of a raw, honest, heart of faith.

It is tempting for me to distract myself, find other things to do, go online, cook, clean, exercise, and find any and all means not to enter into the depths of the feelings of loneliness. In a culture where everyone is go go go, it’s easy to disguise our running as just doing what everyone else is doing: staying busy. Our culture applauds productiveness and busy schedules; It’s supposedly a sign of success.

But what if there is One out there who is using loneliness to beckon us to come and spend time with Him? If we never knew what it was to feel alone, would we even bother seeking after the One who never leaves us and wants to assure us of His love and presence?

I am seeing loneliness through a new lens. It is a sweet and tender invitation from my bridegroom to come away with Him and fearlessly plunge into the depths of my heart and His heart to discover the truths He has hidden there that are more valuable than any gold or precious jewels. It’s like I’ve known this for so many years but I feel like I’m learning it for the first time.

Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness. – A. W. Tozer

This is evidenced in many Bible stories, and there were renowned people in the scriptures who were married, had children, and still experienced this loneliness. That is to say, I do not think loneliness will ever completely leave us. It’s not meant to. Whether I am forever single, or one day a wife and mother, those moments will still arise where I feel there is not a single soul in the world who fully understands me. That’s because there isn’t. Only our Creator knows us at that level and only He can fill those places, whether you be a monk, saint, prophet hiding in a cave, or a busy community member with a buzzing family life.

The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His Godgiven instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way. – A. W. Tozer

So, my friends, the invitation is to throw ourselves on the Lord and cry out to Him. To know that the deeper we are experiencing the depths of loneliness, the deeper we are relating to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Loneliness – Poem

Loneliness

by Emma Doyle
Sept 29th, 2016

 

 

It’s a quiet desperation

The intimacy we long for

With yearning trepidation

Hearts lay trembling on the floor

 

Each solitary night we lay

With loneliness’s thundering silence

Begging for sleep to end the day

To quell the relentless tyrant

 

Is it enough to know we’re already found,

That someones tracking our every move?

Must the one who loves us endlessly prove,

That we’ve been heard, every cry, every sound?