Boundaries and Balance, Part 4: What Are You Walling In or Walling Out?


The Great Wall of China
Image in public domain

You are a shield around me, O LORD. —Psalm 3:3 NIV

In Old Testament times, walls surrounded cities, walls so thick houses were built into them. Today, instead of walls, we trust our security to the armed forces, police, and other groups created for our protection.

But walls still exist. The Great Wall of China, for instance, was constructed in ancient times to protect the country from invasions and raids from nomadic groups to the north. Today the sadly neglected wall is little more than a tourist attraction.

When it was built, however, China was not a communist nation, and the wall was not meant to keep citizens in, like the Berlin Wall.

Which brings me back to Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” and the line, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out.”

We all build walls around us, don’t we? Invisible walls to wall out the unwanted and to wall in that which we want to protect.

First, let’s look at what we wall out.

I, for one, wall out toxic people—people whose behavior has a noxious effect on me, on my emotions, on my thinking, and consequently on my behavior. They spew their poison, and, like yeast, it permeates every aspect of my life if I let it.

I can’t change these individuals, even if I tried. But I can pray for them. I can’t love them on my own, but I can ask God to love them through me.

But that doesn’t mean I have to spend time with them. After all, I’m only human. That’s why I have to wall them out. So their poison doesn’t affect me and those I love.

What other influences must I wall out? The godless and corrupt. Negative thinking. Negative speech. Anything that tears down and doesn’t build up. That which discourages me, robs me of hope, siphons love, and undermines my faith. That which would distract and derail me from God’s purpose for me.

What are we walling in?

That which we want to protect—our minds, our hearts, our spirits.

There’s so much out there bent only to destroy. Remember what Jesus, the Good Shepherd who encloses His fold in a sheep pen, said? “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Walling in doesn’t mean you have a closed mind but that you’re protecting it from corrupting influences (Philippians 4:8–9, Romans 12:2).

It doesn’t mean that you become afraid to love, thinking that will protect your heart, but that you ask God to love others through you. Not your love, then, but His.

Walling in your spirit doesn’t mean you have a blind faith, but with single-minded devotion and commitment to God and His Word, you’re protecting the garden of your faith so it can grow to full maturity and produce an abundant harvest.

Take a close look at your life.

What are you walling in and walling out?

Lord God, be the wall around me. Whatever You allow in, I know You have a purpose for it. Help me to live my life in Your sheep pen and trust my Shepherd. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 13:33 and John 10:1–10

A good article to read about toxic people and their dangerous influence is “What’s a Toxic Person & How Do you deal with One?” by Margarita Tartakovsky, MS, associate editor of
World of Psychology blog sponsored by Psych Central.


Boundaries and Balance, Part 3: Just Say “No”


“Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’” –Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 5:37 NLT

I should have just said “no.”

But how does a mother say “no” to a grown son who asks her to doggie-sit his year-old Australian shepherd for a week?

Tucker, the aforementioned Aussie, is the most hyperactive dog on the planet. Although he’s calmed down some and our son has worked with him, he’s still a pup with more energy than he knows to do with. Except race around the house every evening and chew everything in sight.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Not everything. Just a fake apple from a basket for decoration, my National Geographic bird book, one of my SmartWool merino hiking socks (my favorite pair), the charging cord for my phone, the cap for my stainless steel water bottle, and whatever paper, plastic, and pens he can get his teeth on. And I think he ate a bar of Dove soap this morning.

My son can’t come get him soon enough.

So why do I feel guilty saying that?

Who, me? Do I look like I’d chew up your bird book? Look at this innocent face.

Tucker does have his halo moments. And if I take him outside to let him burn off some of that energy, he won’t feel compelled to chew everything in sight. Okay – not everything.

He loves to chase a tennis ball but refuses to give it back to me. I don’t have time for this “try to get the ball from me” game.

Then the other day I came up with a brilliant ploy: I used two tennis balls. When he came back with one (and refused to drop it), I showed him the other then tossed it. That went on until – glory, hallelujah! – he wore out and went up by the woods line and plopped down in the leaves.

But then we lost one of the tennis balls, so we’re down to just one. And it’s too cold and wet outside to stand there waiting for him to drop the ball so I can toss it again.

So he’s stuck inside. With me. Who can’t say “no.”

In her book Conquering the Time Factor, author Julie-Allyson Ieron examines twelve myths that steal time from us, one of which I’ll address here: “If I turn you down, you’ll think I don’t value you, or worse, you’ll be disappointed in me.”

How many times do I say “yes” because I’m a people pleaser and don’t like to disappoint others, even when it’s an inconvenience (and even when it’s a dog)? And more than an inconvenience – it prevents me from doing what I’m called to do.

Priorities come in play here. It’s important to establish and maintain what’s most important in your life and use this as a plumb line for what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to.

My priories, in order of importance, are my relationship with God, my family, self-care, and my service to God.

I’m not sure where to put “self-care” because if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of my family or serve God the best I can. It’s like when the oxygen masks are deployed on a flight – you’re to put yours on first then help someone else with theirs.

The same is true with nurturing my relationship with God by spending time with Him in prayer and His Word. I must feed my own spirit and grow my own faith first if I’m to help others with theirs and fulfill my calling.

It’s okay to say “no” to things that don’t clearly fit in any of these priorities. It’s even okay to say “no” to family at times. Because sometimes I have deadlines. Because sometimes I just need “me time.” Because sometimes there’s something more important to tend to. Remember the saying about not letting the urgent crowd out the important?

And, as Julie-Allyson points out, I don’t have to give a complete, satisfactory explanation when I say “no.” Like Jesus said, “Let your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” That’s it. No explanations necessary.

What about those times the lines are blurred, the times when what you’re being asked to do doesn’t clearly fit in your established priorities?

Pray for wisdom, and God will give it to you (James 1:5).

I’m not saying I have it all put together. I don’t. I still struggle with saying “no.” I continue to wrestle with establishing and maintaining boundaries in my life.

But with God’s help, my vision is becoming clearer and my focus sharper.

What about you? When do you need to just say “no”?

Father, grant me the wisdom to know when to say “no” and the discipline to decline. May the only one I strive to please be You. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 22:36–40

NOTE: Next week, we’ll finish the series “Boundaries and Balance” by examining the walls we construct in our lives.

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.