When I was a child (hope I don’t lose you with that phrase) I had a bright pink hoola hoop, a large plastic ring that you attempt to keep spinning around your waist, neck, arm or leg as long as possible. Only one person could fit inside a hoola hoop so my sister had her own. Hers was blue. We had contests on the driveway to see who could keep their hoola hoop up and going the longest.
Recently I was talking to a friend about some concerns for a daughter of mine, and she said, “Isn’t she married?” Yes was my reply. “Then she’s not in your hoola hoop.” Excuse me? “She not in your hoola hoop! Who is in your hoola hoop?” Me and God? “That’s right,” she replied. “You can give advice when asked, but you need to tend to who is in your hoola hoop and let God tend to your daughter. Besides, she’s got her own hoola hoop!”
The hoola hoop illustration is a strong reminder of where boundaries lie in my relationships. I thought it such a good illustration, I stopped at Wal-mart and bought a silver one to keep near my desk as a reminder.
When I was younger, I was quite over-responsible and always stepping into other people’s hoola hoops if I thought they needed help with what was going on inside it. I also had dropped my hoola hoop so often, leaving what was my responsibility, that it was left lying on the ground and lots of people stepped over it to come into mine and treat me any way they wanted. Boundaries was a word absent from my vocabulary and from my life! It sounded so mean that I could not learn until it became necessary for literal survival. God finally brought me through with Isaiah 43:18-19 until I was convinced He was doing a new thing and would help me where I was weak. (That plus a lot of counseling.)
Skip now to present day and I’m still learning, but do know that without healthy boundaries in our lives, we cannot have healthy relationships. Does everyone else know this? Nope, and similar to a policeman directing traffic at 5 pm on a Friday, I have to hold up my boundaries sometimes for others to know where to stop. My boundaries also serve as a reminder of where I need to be. Others don’t really want me stomping around inside their hoola hoop either. The Holy Spirit helps me recognize the trespass and do something about it.
Skip now to the Body of Christ. I have found that religion sets up its own boundaries and you are damned if you cross them. Religious boundaries create condemning judgment for you and others, and places God neatly in a box deep in the local church basement. For clarification, my definition of religion is something man comes up with to make him feel better about himself and better than others. It leads to performance, comparison, and cement tradition. It is woven with guilt and fear. There is a hierarchy in the authority structure where the ones at the top are the most important. And we wonder why more people aren’t attracted to joining.
In my personal relationships, I am continuing to learn how to honor others. When I honor others and myself as people with unique gifting and calling, boundaries are not a problem. When I honor myself and others as equals in God’s eyes, boundaries are not a problem. I can invite someone to my hoola hoop and share life, and they can invite me to theirs, without any unhealthy overlap or entanglement. Fear, comparison, and condemnation have to take a back seat to honor. I am able to serve someone else, or even ask for something I need, without the weights just described.
When I am feeling entangled or weighed down, I can stop and notice what is going on. Have I left my hoola hoop and jumped in someone elses? Have I let someone jump into mine or am I feeling the pull of a soul who wants my attention? Either is possible. Have I said “yes” when I should have said “no”? Many people think it’s not “Christian” to say no to a request, but sometimes it is the most right thing we can do.
Church is filled up with us and with what we bring. We can bring healthy behaviors into the Church, but we must learn them ourselves first. The issue of boundaries and honor is not shallow and this brief story only ripples the surface. These have been lessons in my life. Maybe they have been in yours. If so, please share insights you have about your boundaries and how to honor those around you.
(c) Sept. 2011, Robin Lawrimore
Last picture was taken by my daughter, Rachel, outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The man seems to be taking a moment to pray. I love it. www.rachelkennedyphoto.com