Remember, we are talking about the 1970s, so we thought nothing of sleeping with the front or back doors open at night. Fast forward to 2017, most of us would not do this. In fact, we live in a time of gated communities, sophisticated security systems, fenced properties, and video surveillance. We live with boundaries. Why? We are exercising our right to protect our families, our vehicles, our personal property, etc. To lift the boundaries would be an open invitation to potential "intruders". So, why do we falter when it comes to boundaries for our hearts?
Most of us know what the Bible says about forgiveness. We know that we are called to forgive as Christ has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). We know that forgiveness is an act of the will; we choose to forgive. It is not necessarily a feeling. But, we know when we choose to forgive, God gives us grace to release our offender and walk in His supernatural love and have peace in our hearts. Yet, one of the aspects of forgiveness that we may not readily evaluate is the use of boundaries.
In natural, logical terms boundaries are important and necessary. They suggest limits as well as offer protection and safety. The same holds true for our hearts. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 4:23, that above everything we are to guard and protect our hearts with the diligence and watchfulness of a guard. Why? Because what we give access to, what we allow to enter into our world (heart) shapes our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. These things can also impact our overall mental health and wellness.
As it relates to forgiveness, this biblical truth applies. We walk in forgiveness, as we prayerfully use wisdom and discernment in setting boundaries with the one who has hurt, wounded, or offended us. Consider Hannah in I Samuel 1. (Read it when you get a moment.) In a nutshell, Elkanah had two wives; Hannah and Penninah. Hannah was barren, Penninah was not. Penninah would incessantly torment Hannah regarding her barrenness, with her children in tow (emphasis mine). Cruel and insensitive, right? Yet Hannah had boundaries with Penninah. Although Hannah was deeply wounded and hurt on so many levels, she never entertained Penninah's mockery and arrogance. There is no record of Hannah ever speaking to or addressing her tormentor. In fact, she took her broken heart before the Lord in prayer (I Samuel 1:10). I believe, this act enabled her to forgive, overcome any underlying offenses and bitterness, and establish boundaries to ensure her emotional health and wellness. By establishing boundaries, Penninah's power to torment and bring toxicity to her soul was broken.
So, how can we forgive with boundaries? After you have forgiven, consider the following:
1. Boundaries are biblical and necessary for our overall health and well-being
2. You determine the level of boundary that you need to feel safe and re-establish/rebuild trust at a pace that is comfortable for you
3. Pray for wisdom
4. Pray for discernment
5. Pray for strength, help, grace, and guidance
6. Examine your heart. Ask yourself, Is this a healthy boundary established to promote health, healing, and self-care so that I may enjoy healthy, mutually satisfying relationships or Is this an unhealthy boundary caused by an unresolved offense with a bitter root? If it is the latter, go before the Lord with a repentant heart and pray that bitterness would be uprooted and replaced with the Fruit of the Spirit.
7. Repeat and revisit any of the above mentioned suggestions as needed to maintain the boundaries as you prayerfully guard your heart.