“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. -Mark 1:35
My husband and I struggle with an issue of “The Obligatory Yes.” We genuinely love having people in our home, but it can lead to a revolving door of hang-outs, small groups, and football watch parties, leaving very little time for us as individuals to rest and spend time together as a family.
At some point, we have to set boundaries to protect our spiritual health and the unity of our family. This rest or boundary setting can include things like counseling, taking trips home to be with family, or clearing your schedule for low-key nights at home in God’s Word. Although it’s easy for us to fear that boundaries will ruin or hurt a friendship, setting boundaries for you to rest and recharge is what is going to keep your friendships alive.
At some point a friend may ask to borrow your car when you need it. Or someone may need emotional support when you are in bad shape yourself. Even when your friends have a valid problem, there will be times when you can’t sacrifice for some reason or another. When this happens, you will inevitably experience the tension of how to support and love a friend while also protecting yourself.
Jesus lived in this same sort of self-care/selflessness limbo. His ministry revolved around healing, helping and loving people. He was constantly pouring himself out to rescue the broken and hurting. There were few times that Jesus may have actually had an opportunity to be alone—especially after the crowds learned of his power and followed him everywhere. So, what did Jesus do to set boundaries for his rest?
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Jesus made space to be alone, to commune with His Father, and to set apart time just for himself.
Even the Son of God needed healthy boundaries to continue his ministry—to save the entire world!
Jesus modeled self-care before it became a buzzword in our hyper-connected world. So, we should hardly feel guilty for creating boundaries of rest in our friendships to maintain our personal spiritual health.
Of course, it’s hard to practice setting boundaries and saying no because few people enjoy disappointing the people they love. Most of us fear a friend’s response when we say no…but that doesn’t mean you should avoid setting the boundary. Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend in their infamous book, Boundaries, write:
“We are to love one another, not be one another. I can’t feel your feelings for you. I can’t think for you. I can’t behave for you. I can’t work through the disappointment that limits bring for you. In short, I can’t grow for you; only you can. Likewise, you can’t grow for me.”
To have healthy friendships means we need to make space for rest for ourselves first. It may sound selfish, but so does the flight attendant every time she asks us to secure our oxygen mask first before helping the person next to us. Before you pour yourself out to serve in community, you should aim for your own spiritual, as well as emotional, physical, mental, health.
You certainly should serve your community’s needs (read N is for Need for more), but not at that sacrifice of your own stability and wellness. Like Jesus, make time for yourself to be spiritually fed and built up in truth so you can go out and love others.
Questions for Your Community:
Do your friendships have healthy boundaries?
How would you set boundaries with a friend?
What does Jesus’ example of rest teach you about your own personal need to rest?
Say no to a social engagement this week to spend some time alone doing an activity that connects you back to God. Maybe this is a walk around your neighborhood, a drive through the suburbs, journaling or listening to music.