A few weeks ago, I started leading an online Moms’ Bible study, and I am LOVING it. It’s a small group right now. Perhaps the Lord will grow it in the future, perhaps not. Either way, I love teaching from the Bible, and I haven’t done it in quite a while.
We’re going through a study by Priscilla Shirer called Breathe, and it’s about the principle of the Sabbath and the importance of maintaining margin in our lives. Confession: I’ve always thought of the Sabbath commandment as being a set of Thou Shalt Nots about Sundays. I remember discussions about whether or not Christians should go out to eat on Sundays because it was causing other people to have to work on Sundays. My Dad’s veterinary clinic gradually expanded its hours to include Monday through Saturday, but he would have never ever considered opening on Sunday. There’s certainly merit in applying the Sabbath principle in that way, but I’m learning that it means so much more.
One concept from the study is this: Boundaries are a gift.
I’ve been pondering that for a while. I don’t usually think of boundaries as gifts. They seem restrictive, and everything in my conservative American spirit tends to rebel against restrictions on my freedom. However, the interesting paradox is that there is more freedom to be found inside of God’s boundaries than outside of them.
There’s a very woodsy area behind our house. We live on the outside edge of our subdivision, so although there are houses on either side, there are no houses behind us. If you go past our property line in the back, you can walk through woods for probably a mile or so before coming to a new highway that is under construction.
One afternoon not too long after we moved here, my children went exploring in the woods and got lost. I had no idea that they were lost, and they eventually found their way back before I even realized there was a problem, but it was pretty traumatic for them. In fact, they haven’t been willing to go exploring very far since then. I’ve suggested lots of different tactics for overcoming their fears, but they still are happiest staying in the areas they know well.
I asked my son the other day: “If it was possible to build a fence closing in a huge area behind our house – let’s say it could go a mile deep and a mile wide – would you be comfortable exploring then?” He said, “Sure! I wouldn’t be afraid then.” He said that the difference was that if he got lost, he knew he would eventually come to the fence and be able to use that to find his way home.
The fence would actually give him a sense of freedom.
Now while one tendency of people is clearly to want to jump over the fence, there’s another tendency that is perhaps equally damaging. Others of us are so afraid of going past the fence that we prefer to just stay on the back porch and not explore at all. We’re so afraid of getting lost that we won’t explore. We’re so afraid of doing the wrong thing that we don’t enjoy the freedom that we’ve been given.
Reading through the Gospels one finds that Jesus was harder on the porch-sitters than he was on the fence-jumpers. The fence-jumpers – the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the tax collectors, the thief on the cross – they knew the consequences of jumping the fence and desperately wanted to find their way back home. But the porch-sitters – the Pharisees who built the porch to their exact specifications supposedly to keep the people from getting anywhere near the dangerous allure of the fence – He called a “brood of vipers.”
Has God put boundaries in place? Absolutely. But their purpose is freedom and protection, not restriction and slavery.
Do you tend to be more of a fence-jumper or a porch-sitter? How can you better enjoy the freedom that Christ died to provide? Do you need to get back in the fence, or do you need to get off of the porch?