What If: I Listened to My Own Boundaries

I can honestly say that the biggest gift of this season of unboxing (I’m leaning into this “What If” openness as a big re-birthday party with many new gifts to open) is the ability to listen and trust my own voice. As I discover that I am worthy of listening to, I have been gifted with a precious time of filtering through what I’ve always believed, to find the gift of what is really true for me. With that, I have explored some new boundaries that I believe will carry me into the next season of life.

When reading Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, she posed the question: What is my boundary? This was one of a series of questions that guided some navigational writing back in March. As I have revisited my thoughts on this, I have landed in a sacred space. I want to stop operating from a place of responsibility to others and begin recognizing the truth that is inside me. I want to believe that the Knowing that I have in my connection to my Creator is enough. I don’t have to water it down or make it digestible to the masses so I can speak truth. My boundary will be my own discontent. When I begin to feel it, I will honor that feeling and ask myself ‘how can I respond so that the world sees ALL that the Divine is teaching me?’

At the core of my love for humanity is a desire and hope that all will be included. I have camped out on this word ‘inclusion’ for years because I thought it was enough to be invited to the room of life. But an invitation or inclusion is insufficient. With our birthright, we are already in the room. Whether we are welcome there by others or not, we are in the room. I have spent much of my life living this out in the Church, continually encountering the keepers of rules and power that have exploited the places of control, only for those that they champion or for groups in common agreement.

“Unity” and “common ground” are scapegoat words in church circles that have been used for generations to quiet those voices that see the facade of inclusion to justify judgement. I was brought up with the themes of love and wanting. We have been told that the story of Jesus is about welcome. At the same time, I have bought the lie that by being open to people of different thoughts and expressions we are loving them well.

The ever burning coals of discontent in my soul are calling for something far from inclusion and unity. Nothing changes if we spend the next generation navigating the waters “carefully”. To really love people and care for those that have been relegated to the margins, we have to call out the perceived truth, as demonstrated by the masses. Seeing only what we long to see, or the “intent” for religious practice is empty because that is not what the world sees. Even from inside the club, I know that The Church is not welcoming. The Church is not affirming. The Church is not inclusive. 

No matter what name we place on the building, to the outside world it is the same judgmental, closed off and hate-spewing entity. Those that have been stabbed by judgement are not exploring the doctrines of individual congregational expressions for safety. If we are lucky, they are still willing to listen to the story of Jesus, but being a part of the instrument of exclusion is not even on the table for the majority of people today. It’s like inviting an alcoholic to come worship at a bar with the expectation that they won’t be burned by the desire to drink. Instead of celebrating the fact that those off put by our barrier building existence are still open to exploring avenues of connection to a Divine source of hope and healing, Christians continue to place on spiritual seekers the judgement of not being “true believers.” 

This is my boundary today. I’m over the cries for rallying around common threads of truth and allowing our welcome to be enough. Today, my boundary has a new wall. I’m here to honor all the big questions. I’m ready to admit to myself that I feel more welcome and acceptance from those that are far from the Church than I do from those that are close to the holy huddle. Setting boundaries are scary. Boundaries change the rules for all the players. But for this girl, the one that is trying to honor herself for a change, I’m listening to my boundaries and it feels life-giving!

(If this post stirs your soul or if you have read Glennon’s book and you want to unpack it with friends, I have a Facebook book club that is still in Part 1. Send me a message if you are interested in joining us!)

What If: I Never Tear Down My Walls?

I didn’t want to read this question. When I saw it on my screen, I wanted to push right past it and hope that the person who asked it never noticed that I avoided it like the big elephant in the room that it is. All joking aside, was this a plant question that was lobbed up to make me face this very real fear? I have some big ass walls, can you tell?

Walls. I am a master wall builder. In the beginning, they were constructed to self protect, as most good walls tend to be. But there was a shift in my teen years. Walls became a coping mechanism, a safe haven, from the messiness of emotions that I enjoy avoiding at all cost. As time has passed and the situations of life have become more intense and real, my wall building skill has made me a master craftswoman. I can slap a wall in your face before you see it coming. My ability to not just protect, but destroy with a wall is second nature.

So, to face this question is terrifying. I know what it takes to tear down a wall. Honesty. Vulnerability. Bravery. Risk. There are the four pillars of fear for an Enneagram 8. If you know anything about people like me, we are powerful beings. We hate to be controlled (by other people or by life circumstances). We are super strong willed and one of our greatest challenges is lowering our defenses (WALLS) in intimate relationships. Anything that makes me question trust is more than a trigger – it is gasoline on a fire that is sure to burn you. I know these things about myself. I know that these things trigger all the triggers, especially with the people that I choose to let behind the curtain.

Most days, I do a mighty fine job creating the perfect Emerald City that I want the world to see. The public imagery is ideal. It is shiny and pretty and has all of the happy, clappy dancing people to distract from the chaos of the fake voice and lever wielding fraud that works so hard to present the picture of perfection. I can do it all, be it all, save it all and most of all orchestrate it all. I CAN DO IT. (I may have come out of the womb with those words bursting forth from my mouth.) And, for the most part, I can. Until I can’t. And when those moments happen…when I can’t control and have power over and fix and heal…well, then my very first line of defense is a big fat wall that is tall enough to keep you and all of your flying monkeys away from me.

Life and its treachery are hard enough for those of us who love a wall, but relationships are hard in an entirely new way. My relationship walls are the hardest to demolish, and with that in mind, I have to be very honest. There are very few people that I have ever let inside the walls. As much as I try. As much as I work. As much as I want with all of my being to let you see the real me, my walls are often constructed because there have been unsafe people that I have learned to keep at bay. I need to be clear. Healthy walls are not walls. They are boundaries. And, boundaries are good and necessary and worthy. Boundaries should be honored and respected and loved.

Walls are the defense tactics and they are different. Walls require us to dig deep into the well of past wounds and in safe and worthy spaces, place ourselves in opportunities for growth. Be it risking a new job, relationship, conversation or adventure, the ability to scale a wall is dangerous. Every time we look at a wall that needs to be removed and begin pick axing the bricks that are falsely protecting our scared selves, we are brave. With each act of honesty and truth, we not only remove the cold stone of the wall, but we free ourselves from the lie that the fake front is actual protection.

One final thought about walls: they are tricky. I have enough wall experience to know that they have a way of reincarnating themselves in new forms. Just about the time that I think I have found distance from a wall, I am reminded that the wounds that often cause walls are never completely gone. My biggest walls are up because I have be injured in ways that still cause me to scream in pain. No matter how much good interior work I do on these wounds, even when they have been cleaned out, treated, medicated and stitched up, they often leave scars. On this scar tissue, walls tend to multiply like mushrooms on a spring lawn. Our job is to have the mindfulness to know that the scar is there; to not fight the scar (we survived, damnit!). We can see the scar and even recognize the bricks and stones that easily find their way to these tender places, and at the same time, call these moments for what they are. When we are brought back to the places where blood was spilled in the hard seasons of life, we are invited to welcome the treasured few that know the real truth of our lives to help us guard these vulnerable places from hate and anxiety and fear. Because it is in those moments that walls can exist and yet not define. For me, today, that is enough.