For years I was a shepherd of sheep. I learned many things that transferred from the field to my life and walk with God. One thing I gleaned is that sheep need boundaries to feel secure and safe. Within these restrictions, they thrived, experienced happiness and knew contentment. The reason is simple: they live a secure life within set parameters, whereas in a space without limits, they are left in a paralyzing fear.
We humans need limits and boundaries as well. We thrive within them and perish without them. Limits we usually fight against provide us with an arena to express ourselves, explore our creativity, and see who we were really made to be. We, by design of the Creator, are created to function with parameters.
Children grow in much the same way. Under a set of boundaries, we feel free to explore. And though we may kick against them, there is a sense of being cared for in the setting of these boundaries. Let me give you an example of life with no borders.
I witnessed for years a set of boys who grew up in my community. They were given no parental boundaries. There was no discipline by the father or mother. It appeared that the parents resisted correcting their sons because they wanted the boys to consider them as friends. I just grieved as I saw the boys thrash and test the boundaries just to know they were safe. They were angry and exhibited violence. What looked like horribly unruly children was stark raving fear. It was tangible.
Now I don’t say this with judgment or condemnation. Rather, as a shepherd, I learned the vulnerability of a flock. Shepherds who fail to set boundaries to curb the will of the sheep, and neglect to uphold these limits, are abusing their sheep.
Children can be hindered in developing their true potential without curbs. Funny, in the moment, we often feel that our restrictions stunt our growth and creativity, or squelch our individuality. The opposite is true. Limits define zones of safety. Margins are like the guide-wire for a trapeze artist. They give him space to test the limits, develop fully, and shine brightest. The more secure we feel in this zone, the more daring we will be in exploring our world and personhood.
In my next few posts, I want to explore this through the life of John the Baptist. He is, for me, a picture of unlimited expanse within earthly confinement.