“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23, NIV
“. . . It determines the course of your life.” – Proverbs 4:23, NLT
In an article published by The Harvard Business Review entitled, “The Daily Routines of Geniuses,” the author compared the schedules and lifestyles of 161 artists, scientists, philosophers, and other exceptional thinkers and found several commonalities among them, such as:
- Creating a workspace that is fresh and calming with minimal distractions
- Scheduling a mid-day walk as an important part of daily work
- Making a clear distinction between work that is important and tasks that are busywork
- Limited social lives
This study revealed that the participants were able to establish and maintain healthy boundaries in both their professional and personal lives, which set them apart from the majority of people. They have learned that with boundary setting, they are faced with daily choices to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others, and they are choosing well. Let’s take a closer look at why boundaries are important and how to keep them.
Why Boundaries are Important and How to Keep Them
Think of your soul as a vessel. A vessel defined by Merriam-Webster is “a hollow container such as a bowl or a cask.” According to C.S. Lewis, it is “the Hollow that only God can fill.” We have been created with the capacity to hold, receive, and contain information — nevertheless, our human capacity is limited.
We have not been created to wake up in the morning and subject ourselves to a whole world of trouble, darkness, and depravity by simply turning on our phone. We are experiencing the sheer horror of exposing ourselves to everything that is happening in the world everyday and feeling the emotions that come with it.
Very soon we start to cave in, numb out, and run dry. We can quickly become an empty vessel that has forgotten how to receive from God, much less one who is able to give to others from the overflow.
Learning to Receive
The first step toward healing is to learn how to receive the life of God. In order to do this, we must protect our souls from the contenders. This does not mean that we are oblivious to what is happening in the world, but that we come to know our threshold and create space for our souls.
The only way to accomplish this is to get near to God everyday and let Him set the pace for our lives, honoring the value of ourselves, our family, our friends, and our actual nearby community, rather than a social media community.
The filling up of us is God’s business and He is delighted to fill us. In fact, here are a few of the promises He has made to us that are worth remembering, especially when our hearts feel faint:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:29
“But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” – John 4:14
God wants to come to us and restore our lives. But if our soul is not well, it’s almost impossible to receive Him. We are like dry, scorched ground unable to soak up the rain we desperately need. God wants to strengthen and renew your soul. He is extending the invitation to welcome you into a spacious life.
Consider these verses from 2 Corinthians in The Message Bible: “Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”
Setting healthy boundaries will keep us in the places that allow us to receive from God, and consequently, live a more carefree and spacious life removed from the things that weigh us down and hold us back. However, we have to make the choices each day that continue to draw us closer to God rather than away from Him.
For example, we need to choose carefully how to spend our time, the movies and images we watch, the music and messages we listen to, the people we associate with, the words we choose to speak, and even the foods and beverages we ingest. This is what it means to guard your heart. It will become easier as we take time to create space for our souls and find our hearts again.
Learning to Be Still
Learning to be still takes practice. A good way to begin is by taking a sixty-second pause to quiet our thoughts and let everything go. This simple act can work wonders in our souls. In this place of sitting with God in stillness, we are able to release, detach, and open our clinched hands, asking God, “What is it that I need to let go of?” and waiting for His answer.
Here are a few more ideas that bestselling author, counselor, and teacher, John Eldredge has to share in his book entitled, Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad:
- Enjoy reading a book
- Linger over dinner
- Cultivate the ability to hope and to dream
- Spend some carefree time exploring backroads (especially in the early morning or evening) “to watch the beauty of the light, long sweeping arcs and bends in the roads.”
- Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.
- Give yourself permission to slow down to receive “the unwrapped gifts and free surprises nature brings.” Receive it into your soul with thanksgiving. As your soul is restored, it will fit less and less into the madness of this world.
By the way, check out this free app by Eldredge, called Pause. I use it every day!
Learning to Detach with Love and Kindness
Eldredge also explains the notion of Benevolent Detachment. Jesus modeled this freedom of heart for us in His ability to disengage from the world crowding around Him. Detachment means getting some healthy distance. Benevolent detachment is doing it with love and kindness.
Jesus showed us how to prioritize our relationships and He prioritized certain relationships over others, with God above them all. Only God belongs at the core of your heart and spirit. Nobody else knows you and loves you like Jesus, nobody else deserves your heart’s primary allegiance and worship, and nobody should hold the place of influence He holds in your life.
Boundaries enable us to cultivate and protect our closest relationships. Yes, you are called to love “all people,” but that doesn’t mean that all people have access to your core. We don’t set boundaries to either offend or to please people but to manage our priorities and personal resources.
For example, I can care about the people I meet, laugh with them, cry with them, and pray with them but they don’t get to know my heart and influence my decisions.
The truth is, we live so braced — braced for the day, braced by the assault on our attention, braced by the noise around us. When we create the space for our soul to let beauty in and receive the gift of grace with an open, outstretched hand, it will bring us to God’s love, tenderness, and rich goodness.
Learning Who God Is
Often we need to be reminded of what God is really like, how generous His heart is. Disappointments have a way of making our hearts resistant to loving God. Sorrow and suffering can cause our hearts to question His goodness and His love for us. The heart reacts by pulling away.
Ironically, the more that we love God, the more we are able to experience Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” It is the same in our relationships with each other. When someone loves us, we are much more ready to make ourselves available to them. What we keep forgetting is that God feels the same way.
Even in the best friendship, the act of giving and receiving love ebbs and flows with the willingness of the two involved to invest themselves and make it a priority. God’s heart is very much like yours in this way, for your heart is made in His image. Whether or not you currently love Him in this moment matters to Him very much.
You must guard your heart with everything you’ve got, especially in times of disappointment and pain. Your heart is the greatest treasure you have. Without it, it’s impossible to love, receive love, dream, hope, laugh, or find the courage to live in wide open, spacious happiness. It’s dozens of small choices throughout the course of the day that determine the course of your life.
Christian Counseling for Healthy Boundaries
Every counselor at Seattle Christian Counseling is highly skilled and committed to helping you establish and maintain the boundaries that will enable you to live well and be well. Please don’t hesitate to call and connect. We look forward to hearing from you.
“Rice Bowl”, Courtesy of Alex, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Kabut Pelangi Waterfall”, Courtesy of Dwinanda Nurhanif Mujito, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Butterflies in the Field”, Courtesy of Allison Archer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “White Flowers”, Courtesy of Vivekdchugh, Pixabay.com, CC0 License