The Struggle is Real: Boundaries

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It all started a couple weeks ago as I was reading through Exodus… I was cruising, really enjoying Exodus… and then I got to Chapter 18. I am still there, at the crossroads of Exodus 18 and


Exodus 18 – To catch you up to speed… Moses has led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the desert, en route to the Promised Land. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law visits Moses, bringing Moses’ wife and kids back to him. When Jethro arrives, he finds Moses acting as judge from morning till evening…

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” -Exodus 18:14-23

Maybe it was Jethro’s words that haunted me… “What you are doing is not good…” But, Moses’ intentions were good.

Something about this chapter hit home. Maybe it was Jethro’s words that haunted me… “What you are doing is not good…” But, Moses’ intentions were good. I mean, homeboy was helping to inform them of God’s decrees and instructions. That seems like a good thing, right? But it is right after Moses explains why he is doing what he is doing that Jethro appears to believe what he is doing in not good at all… #confusion

Exodus 18 left me with some serious questions. So, I looked up some commentary and came across an article by Bob Deffinbaugh on called, “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” It took me about a week to consume. So many of the words I read were I would totally recommend the entire article, but just in case you’re as stubborn as me when someone recommends you do something… here’s a few highlights:

“Every leader is to be a servant, but we are to be the Lord’s servant, doing His will, not the servants of men, fulfilling their every expectation and desire.” -Bob Deffinbaugh

“Moses was dangerously close to burning himself out when his father-in-law came to his rescue. What appears on the surface to be the insignificant visit of a relative is a really a divine provision to deliver Moses, not from the wrath of Pharaoh, nor from the attack of the Egyptian army, but from himself.”

“To be an effective Christian leader, one must balance the principle of servanthood with that of stewardship. Every leader is to be a servant, but we are to be the Lord’s servant, doing His will, not the servants of men, fulfilling their every expectation and desire. As the Lord’s servants, we can have only one master (Matthew 6:24), to whom we shall have to give account of our stewardship (cf. Matthew 25:14-401 Corinthians 3:10-15; 4:1-5). God will hold us responsible for how we have used those things which He has given us. If we strive to please men, we will most frequently fail to please God and to do those things which He has given us to do. Thus, in our attitudes, we must be servants at heart, but we dare not allow others to dictate or to determine how our stewardship shall be managed.”

“Desire to grow in both faith and humility. Faith is required to trust God to enable you to do what He has called you to do. Faith is also required to enable you to leave what you should not do to others. Humility will keep you from self-trust, and will prevent you from taking credit for what God has accomplished. It will also enable you to resist the ego-flattering suggestion that only you are the solution to a particular problem.”

Out of a super long article, I pulled those three points- but srsly, I cannot recommend more highly that you read it in its entirety…

Around the same time that I was reading the aforementioned article, a quote by John Piper kept coming to mind- like multiple times throughout the day… “If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high and your joy will be full.” I thought to myself, Lord, that is a great quote. Thank you for the reminder…again.

But, finally, lightbulb moment came just a couple days ago.

I often live to make others glad.


I often live to make others glad in me.

and when that’s the case…

my life is hard, my risks are high, and my joy is


God is so patient, kind and full of grace… as Psalm 84:11 says…

“The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

God is a sun and shield… He is a protector. I am thankful for that. But, the struggle is real. I realized that I am terrible at boundaries. Exodus 18 and the article were showing me some areas to work on… but then, an email showed up in my inbox about the book, Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend. I had heard of their book before, but I just assumed it was about dating boundaries and had dismissed it… I mean, not that I don’t think dating boundaries are important… I just couldn’t imagine reading another dating book – and one dedicated exclusively to what seemed like, as I judged the book by its cover and connotations, legalistic dating rules.

But, I just starting reading Boundaries tonight. Snap… it’s good. In like a hurts-so-good-as-light-seeps-into-dark-messy-areas-that-I-don’t-want-to-think-about sort of way. It’s about relational boundaries in general – and for anyone who actually does want a book  on boundaries in dating, marriage, kids…-they have a version for those areas too:)

But, this book is about life boundaries per say… Here’s the official book synopsis:

Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances — Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions — Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others — Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator — Often, Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations. When confronted with their lack of boundaries, they ask: 

– Can I set limits and still be a loving person? 
– What are legitimate boundaries? 
– What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries? 
– How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money? 
– Aren’t boundaries selfish? 
– Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries? 

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend offer biblically-based answers to these and other tough questions, showing us how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves.

Chapter 1 & 2 – are read… and they’ve sealed the deal. I suck at Boundaries. (Is writing a post about my lack of Boundaries, proof of a lack of boundaries? TBD…still a few chapters to go.) Thankful for grace, excited to learn.


7 responses to “The Struggle is Real: Boundaries”

  1. People pleasing ‘ll knock ya down every time. I like what Paul says about this in Ephesians 6:6-7. I’ve found that every day I am reminded of the necessity for balance. I like to be reminded about boundaries and how to assert them responsibly. One way I attempt to manage it is in trying to remind myself of this: aim to bless rather than impress. Still, it’s a constant struggle. Btw: all the best with the new book :)

    1. “People pleasing’ll knock ya down…” & “Aim to bless rather than impress.” Amen Rod. Thanks so much for the Ephesians 6:6-7 reminder… so good. Appreciate your wisdom… and encouragement! Looking forward to reaping more of your wisdom via an anti-people pleasing post on your blog if you wanted to write one! :)

  2. I LOVE Townsend and Cloud’s work. Boundaries was a book my discipler had me read in college, and I too thought it was going to be yet another brick in my wall of dating books. It’s definitely a cornerstone book to me now. It’s funny that you would post about this right now, because I’ve been struggling hardcore with prioritizing assignments to grade, handouts to create, and other work, and I’m plain awful at delegating. I’m a very hands-on, driven person, which means I need to make all my own handouts, grade everything I assign to the students, and I still haven’t quite figured out how to let the special ed teacher do anything in my co-taught class (which I feel super-bad about.)

    Speaking of books that 1-2 chapters in are already keepers, I’m definitely loving Because I Love You. Awesome work, Katie!

    1. Hi Pete! Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who assumed “Boundaries” was about dating boundaries:) And, glad to hear you’ve read “Boundaries” before… srsly sooo good! It’s cool to hear that you’re recognizing how you could decrease your stress and workload by delegating and allowing your co-teacher to head up some initiatives. Once of the parts of the “Tyranny of the Urgent” article that I want to focus on is being a Jethro to others. Deffinbaugh says, “Determine to facilitate the ministry of others, especially by encouraging and equipping them to do what they do best. In other words, begin to function as a Jethro to the many Moseses around you.” Thanks for shaping young minds Pete! Teachers rock:) P.S. Thank you also for reading Because I Love You – hope it’s encouraging!

  3. Can’t wait to see you this afternoon! Remind me that I want to discuss this post when you’re here :-)



    1. Soo good to see you Ginger! I love hearing what you’re learning and appreciate the truth you share!

  4. […] time with people so that I can spend time with God or do work. It’s all about balance and boundaries. I would encourage you to pray about what the Lord would want you to focus on as you begin each day […]

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