Boundaries Have A Bigger Picture

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Irish coast.

We passed through a doored wall that didn’t exactly say “Do Not Pass” but certainly meant to. The bolts that once held a heavy door were still in the door jam. A few meters later the path became so muddy and would continue to get worse. I walked another 50 meters or so, but my wife stopped. It probably was for the better not to continue. One of my few foibles is over-curiosity. But even I thought it best not to continue in spite of wanting to explore the path further.

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You can see the ledge for the path out in the distance but it doesn’t look much used.

Sometimes there are blatant barriers on the path, road or hallway that say “Do Not Pass.” Sometimes those obstructions aren’t as obvious. Sometimes they keep us from going to a physical place but other times the hindrance keeps us from reaching a goal, dream or desired outcome. Our natural instinct is to think this barrier has been placed in our life to hinder us from moving forward and ruin what we want to happen. We can easily think the hindrance is bad because it is preventing something good.

Another type of boundary we often get is being told no. We don’t like being told “No!” Doesn’t matter how old we are. Just last night I wanted to mow the out-of-control lawn in the front yard but my wife said no because she knows it always takes longer than expected and she didn’t want to put the kids down by herself. I didn’t like it. My face burned a little. I didn’t like being boundaried.

We don’t like any hindrances, often feeling like they are stifling, inconvenient or life-ruining. But sometimes those barriers are good boundaries meant to keep us safe or protect us from some unforeseen danger. I believe that even though some of those barriers feel constraining that God places them there for our benefit. We don’t always know the whole story. And if everything happens for a reason then we need to grow in being OK with not knowing the whole story while investigating the bigger picture.

There is a funny story in the Old Testament where a dude named Balaam isn’t seeing the whole story and gets mad at the hindrance happening to him. The whole episode is in Numbers 22:21-39 but I’ll share a couple sentences.

“When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” 

How often have you experienced a talking donkey? The Lord wanted to get Balaam’s attention, and He used a donkey to get it. The donkey saw more of the big picture than Balaam. In this case, the donkey outsmarted the man. Balaam eventually sees the situation clearly and is able to move ahead with wisdom.

Sometimes we may need to be smacked on the head to realize that a barrier may be there to protect us. The Father knows the bigger picture that we can’t always see. Instead of railing against the limitation why don’t we act with gratitude that He wants to protect and provide for us.

It’s the difference between a life of bitterness or thankfulness. Bitterness grows when we continue to see each barrier as a hindrance of goodness. Thankfulness grows when we engage with each obstacle and evaluate why it’s there. When we evaluate the hurdle we can learn whether it is there for protection, to cause a change in direction, or help us evaluate a different character quality in us.

So instead of getting angry why don’t we consider asking ourselves a few questions.

  1. What is the barrier that has presented itself?
  2. What is the obstacle preventing me from doing?
  3. Can I take a few steps back to prevent from acting out in anger or frustration? Give yourself a gift of grace and time to evaluate extenuating circumstances?
  4. Who can I talk to in order to help me evaluate the hindrance objectively?
  5. Will I be open to others speaking into the situation?
  6. Is there a character quality that needs to grow in me to be able to better handle who I become if this barrier were to be removed?
  7. Who can I ask for feedback on character qualities in me that need to grow?
  8. Am I OK with not getting sufficient answers and realizing the matter isn’t entirely in my control?
  9. Will I contentedly consider another direction if this obstacle remains?
  10. Have I asked the Father for wisdom, discernment, and perspective?
  11. Can I be thankful for this obstacles outcome?

It really comes down to how we view the obstacles in life. Do we see them as hindrances to the life you always dreamed about or helps to build you into a person of gratitude, peace and hope. There will always so much to experience and explore in life. An obstacle is just a detour…not to make life worse but to make your life fuller. Let’s choose to see detours as something makes life more interesting. Let’s choose thankfulness over bitterness.

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Even though the path got worse and we turned around, I still have to admit the view was amazing. And I got to experience this wonderful place alongside my wife. So in spite of the muddy obstacle I have a powerful shared memory with a lasting impression. Life is full of those moments if we will choose to see them that way.

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