Tag Archive: boundaries


boundaries

Boundaries

Emma was dead.

I mean, she got that, she really did. Although to be fair, it had taken her quite a while.

But, in her defense, this was completely different to anything she had experienced before, and so recognising it was perhaps not such an obvious connection. What was so distinct about her present state, ‘Was this a state? A condition perhaps? Or do you have to be alive to be in any form of condition? Let’s stick with state for now,’ was its complete and utter differentness to anything else she had previously known.

‘Known?’ Know. To be aware of. Hm, even that seems wrong. It’s like i am in this place of complete awareness with regards to things known and experienced, but i still don’t really have a lot of idea of what is really going on. And what comes next?’

There had been no Terry Pratchettian CAPS LOCK voice speaking directly to her brain to let her know that Death in his, ‘His? ‘Its’ maybe? Does Death even have a gender? All that assuming Death actually has a form and persona of course. I think I may have read too many fairy tales on this topic,’ skeletalness was present and ready to take her away.

‘Skeletalness is NOT a real word. I seem to be really struggling with words to describe my current scenario. That’s the whole trick when you’re introduced to something so well and truly differently different I guess. Urgh, my mom would have cringed at ‘differently different’. Okay, focus, Emma, and let’s try and figure out what comes next. I mean, there is a next, right? This can’t be… it?’

Emma had actually lost count of the number of hours that she had spent trying to “figure out what comes next” before the moment of realisation had struck her that she was in fact dead. You would think it would have been more obvious, but there had been a certain confusion about her, a kind of mist, when she had woken up, ‘No, it can’t be woken up. That would imply sleeping. But I wasn’t sleeping, I was dead. Um, but it had felt like waking up, so maybe we’ll go with that for now,’ and tried to go somewhere else.

The cloud had so descended upon her that even though grasping at a door handle with fingers that were no longer there should have itself been a deafening clue, it had simply delivered to her the information that this particular exit was not a viable one and would she try somewhere else. The second door that led out to the, well previously had led out to the pantry, was also no help. She had moved to windows to no avail, and then, in desperation, and with a sufficient amount of panic, even attempted to pull a chair below the trapdoor in the roof. ‘But pulling anything becomes an impossible endeavour when you have nothing to pull with. Oh look, there I am.’

‘Hours? Had it been hours? It had seemed so, but what was time now? It might have been minutes, or even seconds? Every moment seemed to fade into the next one, in silence of course.’ The one thing Emma had picked up quite quickly on, once she realised, was the deafening silence that, ‘No! No! No! You cannot have a deafening silence. That does not make sense and it has never made sense no matter what ridiculous name the teachers had given to it. Silence is quiet. It cannot deafen you. Overwhelming, perhaps? That is what this silence has felt like. Almost like it was the presence of nothingness as if that could be a thing either. Where was I?’

Even when she was looking down at her lifeless body, transfixed, mesmerized, paralysed, hypnotised, spellbound, enraptured, bewitched, captivated, fascinated, engrossed, stunned, immobili… ‘Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Remain calm. You’re losing it. You’re losing it. Keep it together. What is going on here? Surely something has to happen next. Surely someone, some… thing… has to appear and help me or lead me away or something? Tell me what to do.’

Those last five words she had meant to scream, but there was no screaming here. There was no sound at all. She could barely register her thoughts as words and even they were starting to make less send to her. She felt trapped here. Once she had discovered her body and however long it had taken for her to join those dogs together, to realise that she was in fact deaf, she had quickly become hysterical. Walking through walks had not proved fruitful. It definitely screamed as if something was keeping her in this roam.

What was she meant to don’t? She had no ideal. Her hedge seemed to be spitting now. Lied and worms humming at her foam awe differential erections. No right minded bacteria carpool battery battery emphasis derivative.

Hated.

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The first myth I pointed out in my Relevant article was this idea that “Any and all physical contact is a like a gateway drug to sex.”

Growing up, I frequently heard metaphors like, “Don’t start the engine if you aren’t ready to drive the car” used to warn teenagers that any physical contact (including holding hands and kissing) was a slippery slope straight into the jaws of fornication.

Let me be clear. There is some truth to the fact that physical contact leads to more physical contact. Our bodies are designed to respond to certain signals and stimuli in ways that prepare us for sex. That’s just anatomy. What isn’t as true and certainly isn’t as helpful is this idea that you should be scared of physical contact because if you hold your significant other’s hand, sex will magically or accidentally happen against your will.

I have three major problems with this way of talking about boundaries in a physical relationship. The first two have to do with negative consequences of carrying these ideas over into marriage

On this side of things, I can honestly say that there are SO many conscious decisions you have to make between kissing and having sex. Despite what Hollywood says, clothes do not take themselves off and bodies do not magically and effortlessly fit together. And after years of hearing things like, “I got carried away and it just happened,” we feel broken and inept when we discover that in fact, sex doesn’t “just happen,” but takes a significant amount of communication and maneuvering that isn’t what we think of as “sexy.” In that way, this whole slippery slope idea is more Hollywood than it is Scripture.

The second way this idea can negatively affect sex in marriage is that these kinds of metaphors and language reduce human sexuality to a mechanical operation. Before marriage it looks like this; “Don’t press this button or flip that switch or you’ll cause sex to happen.” After marriage it can look like this: “I pressed all the buttons and flipped all the right switches – I am expecting sex to happen.” And if it doesn’t happen, “What did I do wrong?” or worse, “What’s wrong with my partner that they aren’t responding the way they are supposed to?”

Human sexuality is complex and it can’t be (and shouldn’t be) separated from our emotional, mental, spiritual, or otherwise physical state. This kind of language and thinking enforces the idea that our sex drive is the thing that controls us, rather than teaching a biblical, holistic view of the person where all the aspects of our humanity are equally valued.

Speaking from personal experience, this kind of thinking can lead us to expect physical affection to always lead to sex. It had been so ingrained in me that men wanted sex always that I went into marriage believing that any time we kissed or touched or anytime my husband saw my body, we were going to have sex. Not only is that not reality, but it would be unhealthy in a marriage for a couple to only be physically affectionate with the end goal of sex in mind.

My third major problem with this concept deals specifically with how we are talking to teenagers about sex, purity, and abstinence. I have seen and heard many Christian leaders try to produce “purity” in teenagers by building fear. The message is often something along the lines of “If you take one step down this road, you will lose control and not be able to stop yourself.”

I have to wonder if this isn’t a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy with teenagers. If you are constantly being told (directly or indirectly) that you are incapable of making good decisions, eventually you will start to believe it.

I return to my earlier point that this view is damaging because it fails to look at the person (specifically the teenager) as a holistic being. This attitude ASSUMES that you must be controlled by your sex drive above all else. You set strong boundaries out of fear that your sex drive will take over and you will lose control.

If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, then it is NECESSARY to set boundaries on your physical relationships, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be the reason for that. In fact, I don’t believe that fear is a good motivation for doing anything.

I wonder if instead of teaching teenagers that they need to set these boundaries because they CAN’T make good decisions, we honored them as whole human beings who possess a sex drive, but also will and intellect and emotions and, for Christians, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Teenagers (and adults!) are still growing in their ability to balance all of these things. Even as adults we need healthy boundaries around any activities that we may go overboard with and that would cause one aspect of our humanity to be out of balance with the others. Setting boundaries is a way that we help ourselves to grow in wholeness.

So instead of looking at it through the lens of “These are the things I’m not going to do because I am afraid I’ll lose control” I think it would be far more powerful to choose what you ARE going to do and why you are going to do it. “I’m going to set boundaries that help me make wise choices so that I can grow as a WHOLE and complete person.”

With this kind of attitude, the boundaries you set are not just about controlling or suppressing your sexuality. They are about engaging your mind and your will, creating opportunities to listen to the Holy Spirit and to grow in your ability to consistently make good decisions. Boundaries are not about restricting you because you are out of control. Boundaries are about creating opportunity for you to make the good decisions that you ARE capable of making.

[Lily Dunn is an ice cream connoisseur, a Disney fanatic, and a fellow raiSIN hater trying to live an authentic, grace-filled life. She lives and teaches with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and blogs at https://lilyellyn.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @LilyEllyn]  

[For the Intro to this series, click here]

[For some of my own thoughts on the ‘How Far is Too Far?’ during dating question, click here]

[Dani is a friend that tbV and i met while working with the Simple Way and she currently lives in San Francisco, which is just across the water from us, this is a piece she wrote a year ago which was published in Sojo.net and which she offered to share with us]

Dani Scoville

When my intoxicated friend leaned in to kiss me, I didn’t think I was just the most readily available girl. No, I convinced myself that his true affections for me were coming out. But the next morning, when I realized what it actually meant, I felt less worthy of being loved than I did before.

This wasn’t the first time I lied to myself in the moment and felt awful later, but I wanted it to be the last. I told my friend that wasn’t going to happen again, but I didn’t attempt to process why it happened. Then I was asked to organize an event around the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.

As I began reflecting on my past sexual interactions with men, I tried to bring God into the conversation for the first time.

It was easier to punish myself with guilt, follow youth group-style sexual boundaries or just say, “forget it” and do whatever I desired. I was reluctant to process my sexuality. Not only would it be a lot of work and uncover a lot of past hurt, but what if it unraveled foundational faith and lifestyle beliefs?

Up until six months ago, I had never questioned my decision to not have sex until I was married. I just did what I thought I was supposed to.

Once I began to reflect on it, though, I realized I was angry that God was asking me to wait. Or maybe it was OK to have sex, and God hadn’t told me sooner! I envisioned what would happen if I didn’t wait.

I decided that I would give my current relationship six months. If we were in love, I would give in.

But no matter how I attempted to deconstruct sex outside of marriage, I still felt that this change in my standards would result in me putting an unhealthy amount of expectation on that man to marry me. I knew that I would feel all those years of waiting were cheapened. Because, for me, sex holds an intense emotional and spiritual association.

I didn’t know all this until I questioned. And now, the only way I can envision having sex with someone is in a safe and committed context. This has also led to the more recent realization that I needed to revise my sexual boundaries in dating.

I listed all the events of the past year: what I enjoyed, what made me feel used, and what I needed to allow myself to enjoy. After I processed the last year, I thought about how my desire to be loved and accepted by a man was rooted in a desire to be love and accepted by God. If I first believe that I am God’s beloved, then I would be confident in my interactions with men, knowing I’m already loved and accepted.

So I drafted another list: this one of boundaries self-confident me would ideally want and be able to stick to. A week later, I met a guy who walked me home and kissed me good night at my gate. Rather than slam the gate in his face to make sure he didn’t come upstairs, I told him I was interested in him but that I wasn’t going to invite him in. When I woke up the next morning, I felt great.

I didn’t expect that deconstructing my sexual boundaries in the name of faith would cause me to develop boundaries. But these new ones aren’t oppressive, because they come from an understanding of myself. No one else came up with them but me. Now when the temptation to get a momentary intimacy fix is there, I’ll have my own voice and story reminding me to not give in and wait for something rooted in love.

[Dani Scoville lives in San Francisco and is an active member of ReImagine, a community focused on integrating the teachings of Jesus into daily life. to read more of what Dani writes, check out her blog, ‘Through the Roof Beams’ here]

[For another story on Singleness, meet my friend Beverley by clicking here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]

continuing with the HOW FAR IS TOO FAR question…

finished the first part by saying this:

So THE QUESTION you frame will sound a lot more like this – HOW CAN I LOVE AND RESPECT THIS PERSON i am in a relationship with to the extent that if the dating relationship ever ends, he/she does not walk away with A WHOLE LOT OF BAGGAGE [physically, emotionally…] and HOW MUCH CAN I SAVE OF MYSELF AND KEEP SPECIAL for the person who i am going to end up marrying?

and HERE ARE SOME PRINCIPLES that should help you deal with this in a POSITIVE AND HEALTHY way:

[1] DECIDE ON THE BOUNDARIES BEFORE YOU NEED TO – if you are sitting in a darkened room with your girlfriend on the couch at 11pm on a Saturday evening and there is no one else at home, then the moment things start progressing physically is not the best time to start thinking about what your boundaries are – it’s NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. So come up with a plan and discuss it with your person BEFORE you get into the situation, so that WHEN THE SITUATION OCCURS the boundaries are already in place and it will be easier to slow things down or stop them completely.

[2] ERR ON THE SIDE OF SAFE – as i mentioned before if you are playing right on the edge of the cliff then you are only ONE BAD MOVE AWAY from falling over. So when it comes to what physical stuff you and your person are happy with, rather err on the side of less. As a married man, i can promise you that i NEVER LOOK BACK at past relationships i had AND WISH I HAD GONE FURTHER with any of the girls. Rather when meeting and dating and eventually marrying Val, i wish that i had done less. I was her first boyfriend and so i know i was not able to offer her the same purity that she offered me. So DO LESS! Take more time to get to know each other and enjoy each other as people, and less time in darkened rooms making out. [There is lots of time for that later, Mmm…]

[3] HAVE GOOD ACCOUNTABILITY – Proverbs 27.6 says “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” And what this means is if you have someone in your life who you know loves you and cares about you, then even their words of caution or rebuke can be trusted (because it will be done in love) whereas people who just say “Yes!” to everything you do or want to do, are really acting as enemies to you. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SOME GODLY PEOPLE who will not be afraid to SPEAK TRUTH in your life. For guys, have a guy and for girls, have a girl who you can speak to about your relationship stuff, about the struggles and temptations [especially in this area of physical stuff] and who will check in on you and be praying for you and loving you back to health if you ever do mess up.

This is one of the areas that takes down Jesus-following people MORE THAN MOST OTHERS. Largely because of THE GUILT AND CONDEMNATION that comes to visit when you get it wrong. We know that in Jesus there is no condemnation – there is GRACE AND FORGIVENESS and a second chance. But WHY EVEN GO THAT ROUTE? MAKE GREAT CHOICES FROM THE BEGINNING and you won’t even have to go down that road.

It STARTS WITH ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION – and HOW FAR IS TOO FAR? is not that question.

HOW CAN I LOVE AND RESPECT THIS PERSON i am in a relationship with to the extent that if the dating relationship ever ends, he/she does not walk away with A WHOLE LOT OF BAGGAGE [physically, emotionally…] and HOW MUCH CAN I SAVE OF MYSELF AND KEEP SPECIAL for the person who i am going to end up marrying?

[to continue to part III click here]

Belgium. i would say that Belgium is probably TOO FAR. Unless you’re in Holland, cos then it’s just like down the road or something…

But in our recent history or being asked to speak or lead workshops on relationships, THE ONE QUESTION that the beautiful val and i GET ASKED WITHOUT FAIL is this one: HOW FAR IS TOO FAR?

And the answer is very simple. ASK A BETTER QUESTION! Because with ‘How far is too far?’ WHAT YOU ARE REALLY SAYING is:

“I know there’s a line, there’s a cliff. But i want to know HOW CLOSE TO THE EDGE of the cliff can i get without actually being over it?”

or another way:

“How close to being bad can i actually get WITHOUT HAVING TO FEEL GUILTY?

or something like that… and because you are asking THE WRONG QUESTION, you will never get a satisfying answer.

and if there is a line or a cliff and you spend all your time hanging out right on the edge of it, then THERE WILL COME A MOMENT when you are not strong enough to resist temptation and it is just a step away from A LONG AND PAINFUL PLUMMET from which it is not possible to come back without some scratches and bruises.

Well then WHAT QUESTION SHOULD I BE ASKING? Well it starts with my premise that all dating is done with the possibility of this person being the one that i end up married to. With that in mind – and remembering everything that was said about good break-ups in the last blog [when you realise you are not a good match] – there is always the probability that if things do not work out for me and this girl, that she will one day be SOMEONE ELSE’S WIFE.

With me so far? If things don’t work out with me and present girlfriend at some stage she will be someone else’s wife. Now be that person and work backwards from there: If you are dating someone who is one day going to be my wife, what do you think i would be happy to allow the two of you to do? And the answer is probably NOTHING!! i would not want you to do anything – in the physically intimate sense – with the girl who will one day be my wife.

Now DO NOT PANIC!!!, I AM NOT SAYING DO NOTHING. What i am saying, is that if we are able to view our relationship with this person as someone else’s potential life-long mate, it MAY HELP US TO MORE EASILY AND THOUGHTFULLY DEFINE what those boundaries are.

Because i am NOT SURE THE SPECIFICS ARE THE SAME for everyone. And i am not going to give you a list of THINGS YOU CAN DO and PLACES YOU CANNOT TOUCH [altho reproductive organs and baby-feeding appendages are probably great non-negotiable areas to completely avoid] because i think there are some KEY PRINCIPLES that if you put them in place, will make the living-out-of-it’ness a lot easier.

So THE QUESTION you frame will sound a lot more like this – HOW CAN I LOVE AND RESPECT THIS PERSON i am in a relationship with to the extent that if the dating relationship ever ends, he/she does not walk away with A WHOLE LOT OF BAGGAGE [physically, emotionally…] and HOW MUCH CAN I SAVE OF MYSELF AND KEEP SPECIAL for the person who i am going to end up marrying?

[to be continued… by clicking here…]

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