I’ve never been great with boundaries. I can have plans to do something…or NOT do anything…and a call or request comes to me and I just say “okay.” Now, I’m better than I used to be but I wouldn’t call it a strength.
Several years ago I was approaching burnout in my life. As a pastor and counselor I had come to believe that I was to be absolutely available to anyone, anytime. My family, of course, got the short end of the stick in terms of my time and attention. But how could they not see that I was helping people? The last person on my list of priorities was me. Personal time, self-care or a minute to think were not on the day’s agenda.
One day as I literally felt like I was losing my mental balance, I saw in my mind’s eye a little yellow house set on rolling green hills. It was really a sweet house. But all the doors and windows were open and animals, birds, leaves and dust were free to blow through every corner of my little house. The inside of my little house was filled with all of the things animals and nature leave in their wake. I understood what the picture meant for me:
“Kathy, its okay to close the doors and windows sometimes and to enjoy the quiet, privacy and peace of your home. Its good for you to bring order to your home and to fill it with peace for you and your family. Close the doors. Close the windows. Exhale.”
And so I did. The house represented both my literal home and my daily life. I began to set times when I was not available – sometimes because I didn’t feel like it and sometimes because I wanted to have time alone with my family or myself. It was easier to set the boundaries than it was to feel ok about saying “no” to others. (But I’m a strong person and I mastered it…mostly) The feeling of freedom I experienced and the wonderful times with my family made it all worth it. I began to regain my footing.
I believe we live in a time when there is too much going on all the time. We have information badgering us from every angle, needs from every direction, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) for so many. What if we just said no to some things. What if we turned off the TV and actually sat with our own thoughts. What if we took out a board game (for you youngers that’s a game that is not handheld, electronic or on a screen) and sat around a table with friends or family. What if we learned to communicate face-to-face even when its not easy.
I realize that this is an odd snapshot to post in the midst of quarantine. Many are so tired of their house that they’d give anything if people or animals would come marching through! But I still think its an important thing to consider. Perhaps you don’t need to close up your house but what about putting some boundaries on your mind and heart? What if you didn’t watch something for hours or listen to others talking on pod-casts, radio, tv, etc. What if quarantine gave us the opportunity to practice peace, to acclimate to quiet and to get re-acquainted with ourselves. You see, it not just about being alone, its about being renewed and restored through peace. For me, this has always and only come about through God’s love and grace. That’s my anchor.
Perhaps I am the only person who has an issue with this. Perhaps not. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of busyness and mental/emotional clutter, I encourage you to introduce yourself to your closest companion. You’ll find him/her in the mirror.
I grew up in chaos – alcoholism, abuse, poverty. From about the age of 4 we attended a small local church. Mom was introduced to God’s love and goodness through Jesus and she never looked back. I have a strong legacy of faith. Yet I have not always lived in the peace that the Bible promises. Fear and insecurity marked my childhood and early adult years. I prayed a lot for peace and calm in my mind and heart, but it was not forthcoming. Raising my kids, working at marriage and dealing with my own interior issues led me to a place where I realized I wanted peace. I craved it. I wanted my kids to learn to live in peace and that wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t go after it myself.
It has been quite a process, but I can honestly say that I am learning to like myself more and to appreciate time spent with….me. My brain is a strange and magical place that I have had to learn to accept. Seriously, I have some really weird thoughts at times but I no longer run from my reality or my imagination. I’m learning to live with time in my ‘house’ alone. Actually, for me it is time alone with God. He is the peacemaker and offers me the grace I need to accept my weirdness.
Jesus is….well, he is God, and he found it necessary to get away by himself. He was working hard at loving, healing and teaching people and he needed rest and quiet. I figure if God needed to exhale (check out Genesis 1) it is ridiculous to think I can overlook it.
For those of you who find it difficult to quiet your mind and close your doors, I encourage you to learn from my rough journey. Don’t wait until you’re almost losing it. Find a rhythm of social life and private life, of listening to the world around you and of listening to the voice of peace inside you.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.
The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.
My heart pounds in my chest.
The terror of death assaults me.
5 Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
and I can’t stop shaking.
6 Oh, that I had wings like a dove;
then I would fly away and rest!
7 I would fly far away
to the quiet of the wilderness.
After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!