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I truly had no idea what it meant to have healthy boundaries in the early years of my marriage. I was controlling, micro-managing, and just overall not super great to my husband at that time.
When the Lord began His work in me, I also flopped heavily onto the other side of the unhealthy boundaries equation. Instead of bowling my husband over, I became silent and non-confrontational in any sense. I did not hold him accountable in love. I believed I was acting in love, but sadly, I was simply enabling him to protect my own discomfort.
It took me several years to figure out and apply healthy boundaries (check out my post on boundaries here).
I know firsthand the damage that absent boundaries can have on a marriage. I have played my part as both the attacker and the attacked…and, the Lord’s Ways are SO much better!
He LOVES to teach us a better way, and I have been the happy recipient of that training for years now. Let me tell you, it has made a night-and-day difference in my life!
Healthy Marriages Have Healthy Boundaries
I remember one time engaging with an older couple who were struggling with healthy boundaries.
The husband was a gentle and very kind man, who was content to work at a local hardware store. He thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed environment, since he was a simple man with simple taste. This man shared with my husband and me his varied opportunities to engage with younger men who entered the store. He so clearly delighted in his opportunity to act as a Godly influence to them.
He openly shared his enjoyment of his position, and the glimmer in his eye and smile on his face proved it true.
His wife, however, disapproved and was not shy about her perspective. Throughout the conversation she would throw in her two cents on the husband’s work, labeling it as bringing in too little money, and that he was “better than that,” over and over again.
We wives have such power in our tongues…
I watched the man’s face carefully throughout her onslaught, and it appeared like he was aging before my very eyes. Her constant barrage of assault and insult came at a price for his joy and vigor. Sadly, though, he did not stand up for himself much either as she attacked him without restraint.
My heart ached for the man and the difficulty of his situation. His natural softness was the stomping grounds of a firm and direct wife who didn’t respect his nature. He also enabled her behavior by his apathy, rather than confronting her sins in love.
I have struggled with that lie before. I know it all too well. It kept me bound and gagged for years:
A good Godly person does not battle others or cause a stir, but rather “turns the other cheek” when assaulted and stays quiet so as to keep the peace.
Sound familiar? If so, ohhhh, this post is for you. And, seriously, I’m giving you a hug RIGHT NOW! I really, really understand.
And, if you’re on the flip side, and maybe tend to control others, read on because there are two sides to every coin.
We have a REAL enemy who wants to keep us in the bondage of lies
Satan is the master deceiver. He LOVES to slyly toss out pieces of scripture in the hopes that we will bite on the nugget, thinking that it is a gift from God. Often though, he will suggest a tidbit of scripture provides 90% truth with the 10% lie, and that lie is enough to keep us in complete bondage for years!
In the garden, satan came alongside Eve to subtly question, “Did God REALLY say you must not eat?” In the desert, he came alongside of Yeshua to tempt Him with scripture: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you…’”
In one situation, Eve fell to the deception. On the other, Yeshua stood and fought back with the WHOLE Truth of scripture.
The deceiver is still at work today in the area of personal responsibility and loving interaction. He continues to subtly suggest that it is Godly to refuse to fight back against antagonists. The absence of loving confrontation in His strength has paved the way for imbalance in all areas of life.
When a Marriage Goes Bad, It Costs GREATLY
In marriage, there is an absolute need for mutual respect where BOTH people in the marriage are able to have their opinions and perspectives about how to do life. If one person’s perspectives are placed as superior to the other, then quarrels and disunity occur.
Marriage is not a master/slave relationship where one person is under the command of the other. Yes, there is an aspect of positional authority. But ANY use of aggressive control-like behavior from one person upon the other is an abuse of a Godly position. The only time that such force makes sense is in the cases of true self-defense and protection.
In fact, when this is present, we are walking in the ways of Pagan idolatry and devil worship! It’s pretty serious.
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ Matthew 20: 25-28
What were the Gentiles? Pagan idol worshipers! Let’s not forget this distinction.
And, we are not to be anything like pagan idol worshipers, but rather to act with Love AND Truth:
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~ Eph. 4: 17-18, 29-32
Did you catch that too? We are not to speak with unwholesome talk, but it does NOT say to stay silent. Rather, it instructs us on HOW to speak and for what purpose.
Healthy Boundaries are Firm AND Loving
I venture to say that we all have a tendency to overstep boundaries and attempt to control someone else and their way of doing things. This is normal and a place where each of us is regularly being refined and learning HIs discipline as we walk.
The point is, though, that we are not to excuse our overstepping as acceptable simply because WE don’t like something someone else is doing.
We are also called to be Strong in the Lord when we face the opposition of the enemy. Our fight is not against our spouses, but against the liar who has come to steal, kill, and destroy.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” ~ Ephesians 6: 10-13
To walk out on this Journey of obedience to our King, we must remain in the middle ground. Here we find His strength AND gentility, power AND calm, perseverance AND patience, boldness AND empathy.
It is no easy thing to navigate the in-between, but it is truly right where our Abba leads us day by day.
In the Body, neither side of the fence is Godly. We sin against our Abba and each other when we strong-arm OR are apathetic to abuses.
This is best applied within the Body. Abusive powers abound within the world. This is why there is wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to be silent when to rise up and when to lie down.
Related: 30 Days of Prayer: Pray for Wisdom
This is why we need our Abba and His Spirit. He helps us navigate the ins and outs of holding healthy boundaries IN LOVE.
Never Stop Learning
I am a HUGE fan of Henry St. Cloud’s books on boundaries, and his marriage book is incredible. If you struggle with the idea of boundaries in your marriage, I highly recommend this book (affiliate link…if you purchase, I get a small commission) to offer some help and guidance.
God Helps Lead His Children On Their Journey
No matter where you fall on the side of the coin take heart. Our Abba is with you and will help you as you navigate the winding roads of life. He will help you as you learn to stand firm in His Truth.
Thank You, Abba for Your middle ground and narrow road. Thank you for Your clarity on the confusion within our world.
Give us eyes that can see and ears that can hear Your voice gently speaking to our hearts. May we have a softened heart to You as You guide us saying, “This is the way. Walk in it,” (Is. 30:21).
Are you ready to practice boundaries with your marriage? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you.