Last time I wrote about how my husband and I are re-prioritising and re-ordering at present, so our family can reach of a place of thriving in the things God has for us to walk in. Read about that here.
It’s one thing to be able to trim the tasks and activity within your home with the purpose of freeing up more time. Watching less TV for instance is as simple as turning the thing off!
But relationships take a different approach. There are more factors that determine how boundaries can be set and kept; other people being the most obvious factor in the mix.
By boundaries I mean more than just how much time is set aside to spend with people. It’s about determining what level of involvement with others is reasonable for our family at this time, what freedoms we are willing to extend to others, and working with expectations that operate between our relationships. For example, I’m committed to spending time with close friends regularly, but have to think about how often, what nature that contact has, what my kids will be doing, and what level the conversation is allowed to get to depending on if the kids are about or not. Another example is, who and how much do we allow others to speak into our lives, or those of our children, if it does not bring empower and support the values we are living by?
Sometimes it means that a friend might have a much greater expectation on what I should be giving into that friendship than what I am willing and/or able to give. They have to be OK with that, as I should too if the tables were turned.
Sometimes it means the answer is no to being with valued friends, as we need to have a family day. It may mean I cannot say yes to every request for a meal, missions letter, and prayer partnership requests. It means not attending every function amongst our circle of friends and family. I can only pray that the Lord will give me the grace I need to be a loving friend when the time arises.
My husband and I are just trying to navigate our way through each situation according to our values rather than set completely inflexible boundaries that don’t serve what we really desire… to be people that love greatly and give freely. We are willing to sacrifice our own convenience and comfort at times, but hopefully in a way where we co-operate with what we believe the Lord is asking of us and not beyond what we should.
The boundaries we set have to serve who we want to be as a family, and are not a law unto themselves. Boundaries should enable relationship, not restrict it. The times when it restricts relationship is when the other party does not respect them.
Where our children are concerned, we alone are responsible for them and make no apologies for setting boundaries that limit outside influences that prevent us from parenting them in the way we have chosen. That may mean not allowing our children to go to a friend’s house where inappropriate video games are played. Or it may mean placing boundaries where there are those that intentionally try and sway our children’s hearts to that of their own personal values.
We have become much more intentional about just who we allow into the more inner and intimate place of relationship with us. We obviously have all kinds of relationships for all kinds of reasons. But that place of trust and mutual honour, where we are supported and cheered on, and where the way we raise our children is not undermined or criticised, as we seek to place our values ‘emphasis’ in their hearts… that is reserved for only a few.
In the past we had given unfettered access to all who would enter. But this was unsafe and placed unnecessary stress on us as a couple and family. We learned that even those we dearly love do not necessarily belong in that place with us.
I write on all this, as this can be one area that is the most draining of all to manage when we’re trying to ensure balance in our lives. It’s amazing how much freedom can come when you become intentional about your relationships.
We have learned that as a couple we need to walk in unity, and manage other relationships from that place of strength. It all gets much easier when we are on the same page as each other.
Can I encourage you today to take stock at the activity and busyness in your life, do a little ‘decluttering’ perhaps, and make some choices to intentionally move to a place of greater fruitfulness and freedom, where every member of your family can thrive?
Determine how you can better manage your relationships in a way that won’t prevent you from living in fullness.