No one likes being told they can’t do something. The 2-year-old who hears “No!” feels the same as a teenager who is given a curfew or an adult who is harnessed by a boss. We pride ourselves with the ability to do what we want and it frustrates us when we reach the end of our rope. When it happens, we have reached a boundary. A boundary is the place that marks the spot where we are forced to stop.
The Bible tells us God created boundaries for each person. He did not create them to limit us. He created them so we could find Him. He is located in the boundaries. They are one of His most effective interruptions.
Boundaries are frustrating because they stop us in our tracks. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are temporary, and unfortunately, others are permanent. There are health boundaries, financial boundaries, emotional boundaries, age boundaries, educational boundaries, career boundaries and even spiritual boundaries. We can grow and move in all of these areas, but they each have their limits.
I have a dear friend who is talented, wise and productive. She is a contributor to society. Her family, the church she attends and her co-workers all benefit from her presence. She was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Doctors say she has a year. She has bumped into a boundary.
My mom recently broke her foot. She is healthy and active. She was doing laundry. She just stepped the wrong way and pop—her foot broke. She found a boundary.
I know a man who feels stuck in his career. He has held the same title at his company for 12 years. He has done continuing education. He has received annual high performance ratings. Yet, he has been passed over 5 times for a promotion. He has run into a boundary.
I know a student athlete who desperately wants to be a starter on his team. He works out. He runs. He has skills, but there is always someone who seems to be stronger, faster and a little more skilled. He is rubbing up against a boundary.
You know you have found a boundary when what you want is just beyond your reach; and no matter what you do, you can’t change it. God uses boundaries to interrupt our lives. He is not being cruel. God did this so that you would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, because he is not far from any one of us.1
When we reach a boundary, it feels like God is nowhere near. We feel pain, sorrow, frustration, disappointment and fear. Yet, it is in the boundaries God has lovingly hidden Himself. If we look for Him we will find Him and the grace of God will become practical.
God can interrupt us before we hit a boundary (there will be more about that in some upcoming blogs), but sometimes we need to be reminded of our limits. Without boundaries, we would build our lives and leave God out.
Gary was one of four sons. His first religious memories are of his mother taking him to church as a child. His parents argued often and his dad did not see any value in turning to God for help. To have one less thing to fight about Gary’s mom gave up attending church. Gary stopped too.
As a teen, Gary’s home life was tense. He felt disconnected from his parents and lacked moral guidance. For thrills he started stealing bikes and selling them. This activity laid the foundation for more poor decisions. He eventually started breaking into homes.
After graduating from high school, he realized he could make good money selling drugs and fencing stolen property. After some trouble with the law, he determined his life needed a new direction so he joined the National Guard and became mechanic. He says of himself at that time, “I looked good, but I was living on thin ice.”
After his time in the guard ended, he found a job at the water department with the City of Akron. In spite of a stable job, He took up his old habits selling drugs and stolen property. His life was in a downward spiral. He was at the end of his rope. It is here that God sent an interruption named Steve. Steve worked in the same department with Gary.
At the end of a workday Steve would catch Gary and walk with him to his car. He would share Scripture and talk of his relationship with Jesus. His persistence and patience was irritating. Finally, Gary told Steve, “I have no need for your Jesus.” Steve backed off, but Gary said, “I started missing those conversations.”
Two weeks later, Gary was involved in a severe car crash. When his truck finally stopped moving and the noise of wreckage went silent, he heard Someone say, “Gary, have you had enough.” It is here that Gary found God in his boundary.
He walked away from the crash, but he walked back to Steve. All he could think about were the Scriptures Steve had shared with him. He was ready to listen and learn. The next day Gary received God’s grace and became a follower of Christ.
Eighteen months later, Gary married, started a family and became the father of three children. Looking back on his life Gary says, “God has blessed me. My life hasn’t always been easy, but God has been faithful. I’ve learned to look for God when I hit a boundary.”
Before you try to break through your next boundary, pause and look for God. His presence and grace are close at hand.