The backyard of my childhood home bordered an apple orchard and, beyond that, a forest of stately pine trees that swayed and whispered in the wind. My sister and I were allowed to explore to the far edge of the orchard, but my parents deemed the pine forest off-limits.
The fact that the pine forest was forbidden territory just made it all the more enticing. Perched high in one of the tallest trees deep in the middle of the woods was a dilapidated treehouse. Jeanine and I dared each other to climb the planks that were nailed to the trunk, a makeshift ladder leading to a hole cut into the floorboards far above our heads.
Thankfully we were both too afraid to climb very high. I shudder to think what might have happened if one of us had been brave enough to make it all the way to the top and stand on the rickety floor of that old tree house. I doubt the rotted wood would have held our weight.
When God blessed the Israelites with his gift of the Promised Land, he did not give them free reign over all the land, but instead named clear boundaries on every side – mountain ranges, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Jordan River. God said to Moses, “Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance is to have these boundaries…This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.’” (Numbers 34:1-2 and 12)
Boundaries often feel negative to us. We feel constrained and limited by them. We might wonder why God is intentionally holding us back by inhibiting us from entering the place we desire to be. But what we fail to recognize is that boundaries are often good for us. Boundaries keep our ambitions and desires in check; they give us time to mature and prepare.
I often find myself wishing for more success as a writer. I desire more readers, better book sales, and more speaking engagements. If God gave me the call to write, I wonder, why isn’t he growing my reach?
Recently, however, when I published a blog post that was shared hundreds of times on Facebook, broadening the reach of my words far beyond their typical range, I got a small taste of what that kind of visibility can be like in reality. The post was more controversial than my usual fare, and it provoked several readers to leave angry comments on my website and Facebook page. Three days after the post was published, I was still negotiating ugly conversations on social media, which left me feeling anxious and angry. Turns out, more readers did not produce the outcome I had desired.
The boundaries God gives us are just one of the many ways he surrounds us with his love and protection. Just as my parents knew that the pine forest was a dangerous place for my sister and me, God sees the potential threats that await outside the boundaries he gives us. He understands our limitations; he knows where we are weak and where we will falter. He knows when we need more time to grow in ways that will help us survive and thrive beyond the place he has established for us today.
God intentionally hems us in, giving us boundaries in our professional and personal lives not to punish us, but to protect us from harm.
This post originally ran in the Lincoln Journal Star in January.