Boundaries – Cloud and Townsend, Part 1: Book Review
Boundaries Define Your Soul
In a Women’s Group I attend, we are considering the book ‘Boundaries’ (Cloud and Townsend). I have already been impressed with the simple truths behind the information and instruction it gives. The following is a summary of the first section we have read (Pages 27-33):
Boundaries define your soul, so that you can guard and maintain it. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23. Boundaries mark our inner property (where WE begin and end). God has entrusted our own inner world totally to us alone (Proverbs 14:10). This can be a more difficult premise to define than we might imagine, but, with the certainty of it, comes ownership and freedom.
Boundaries show us what we are responsible for, and also what we are not responsible for. Something we are not responsible for is other people, although we can be responsible TO them. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” This word ‘burden’ has the meaning of “excess burdens”, ones which are great and too big for one person to bear alone. These are times of crisis, of hardship in someone’s life and are things that can be shared through the help of sacrificial love.
Contrast this to verse five of the same passage “for each one should carry their own load.” This word ‘load’ has the meaning of “cargo” or “the burden of daily toil”. It describes our personal responsibilities – the health of our own inner life (our attitudes and behaviours) and the tasks which make up our individual daily lives. They are like the things we have to carry around in our handbag – possible to carry and not too heavy.
“Problems arise when people act as if their “boulders” are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry. The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.” – Boundaries
Boundaries act like strong fences to help us to keep the good in and the bad out. They guard our treasures and keep away harmful things. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6. However, these fences also must have gates to allow things which are on the wrong side of the fence to pass out or in. For example, if we find pain or sin within, we need to let it out, which is achieved by honestly acknowledging it. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. In the same way, we need to let the good come in, such as allowing Jesus to enter: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20, and also accepting good which comes from others: “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange -I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” Often, people who have had a history of pain and abuse learn to do the opposite – keep the good out and let the bad in – and it’s not until boundaries are learnt and gates utilised that healing can begin.
The concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. In scripture, He defines Himself very clearly:
Who He Is
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” 1 John 4:16 and “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” 1 John 1:5.
What He loves and What He Doesn’t
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” Exodus 34:6-7.
What He Plans
“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” Psalm 33:11.
God makes a very clear distinction (boundary) between Himself and His creation. “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?” Numbers 23:19, yet He has also given us His ‘likeness’ (Genesis 1:26) and personal responsibility to develop good boundaries and character.