I recently found myself sitting along the bank of a river, mesmerized by the sound, the movement, the artistry in which the water progressed downward. It is hard for me to experience such a thing and not contemplate God. He created this place. He created this moment. I knew there was something for me to learn—to take away with me. So I sat and gazed and pondered until this thought came to me:
I need boundaries like a river.
Boundaries are definitions. They are the limits and borders which we draw around ourselves and our relationships. They clarify what is me and what is not me; what is mine and what is not mine.
Just like the bank does for this river. It is easy to distinguish where the river stopped and the ground upon which I sat began.
- The boundary wasn’t harsh and rigid.
- It wasn’t weak and ambiguous.
- It was clear, yet gentle.
And the river maintained its movement within these limits, yet wasn’t limited by them. The bank didn’t constrict it. Instead, it seemed to give the river freedom to fully embody itself.
Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we lived it in a similar way? We need to recognize where we end and everyone else begins. And that boundary needs to be clear, yet gentle. Let those limitations not limit you, but free you.
Free you to be fully you, not to burst your banks. When a river becomes too much and overreaches its boundaries, we regard that negatively. We call it a flood. We consider the consequences as damaging. We do not welcome the river reaching past its boundaries and taking over areas where it doesn’t belong.
Conversely, we also dislike when the river shrinks back and becomes less of itself. We are saddened, frustrated, or disappointed when we arrive to its edge and see the super low level of the water.
The same is true for us. Our boundaries let us be more fully us. We shouldn’t burst our boundaries and try to overreach into the boundaries of others. We shouldn’t attempt to control what others think, feel, or choose to do. We shouldn’t dominate, bulldoze, or bully the situation. That is the same as a flood, and just as damaging.
But we shouldn’t pull back, shrink back, or become less of ourselves either. Often, we allow or invite others to overreach into our boundaries, to dictate and control what we think, feel, and choose. That isn’t the way to live—a sort of half-life that is dependent upon others to fill in.
Know what is yours. Know what is not yours. And honor that. Have boundaries like a river.
God gave each of us an area of control. It is how a sovereign, omnipotent God shares control with us. We get to choose for ourselves how to manage what lies within our area of control. That area is defined by boundaries, by our own banks.
You are like that river. The only thing within your area of control is you. You are defined by your boundaries. You manage your thoughts, your feelings, and your choices. Life is much better, much simpler, and much more free when you embody that.
- Find contentment in what God has shared with you.
- Find peace within your banks.
- Find the freedom to be more fully yourself.
Refrain from becoming a flood or shrinking back or allowing others to flood into you.
Acts 17:28 says, “In him, we live and move and have our being.” That is what it is possible when you have boundaries like a river.
About Jennifer Miller
Jennifer Miller, MAR, MA, LPC is a Christian pastor, professional counselor, and author of No Longer Two: A Guide to How God Created Men, Women, and Marriage. For over a decade, she has been combining her expertise in psychology and theology to help individuals, couples, and families both in private practice and in ministry, as well as through her writing, speaking, and teaching.
She is the co-founder and Co-Executive Director of The Center for Living Well, a nonprofit Christ-centered wellness ministry dedicated to helping people live well and love God. She regularly leads classes, workshops, and retreats on a wide range of topics including faith and relationships. She is also a Master-level Christ-Centered Yoga Leader at the Center.
Jennifer is one of the new co-hosts on Heart and Soul with Jory Fisher. You can listen to her with Jory the second and third shows of the month starting in October.
She is also offering a special discount to listeners and readers for her upcoming “Live Love Yoga and Wellness Retreat,” being held in Oracle, Arizona on November 7th–9th. Register with the code “Radio” and save $60, reducing the basic registration for this all-inclusive retreat to just $299!