A Look at the Tension Between Selfless Love and Healthy Boundaries.
What would you say to the young couple, recently married, with a 6-month old baby who wants to foster a sibling group of five children, ranging in ages between 8 and 17? How do you hold well the tension between selfless love and healthy boundaries?
Jesus says, ‘Don’t resist the one who is evil. If he takes your tunic, give him your cloak. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two.’ Continue Reading…
Relationships grow through healthy conflict, but growing through conflict has become a lost art. We need to learn to view and engage in necessary conflict as Jesus did, “full of grace and truth.” How do we do it?
He’d never say it exactly, but his heart is broken. Life-giving dreams that once energized him aren’t materializing like he expected they would.
Michael sees his peers succeed and he struggles with bitterness and envy. “Why not me? I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be at this point in life. Things could have been so different if…”
Phillip is forced to let go of his “impractical” dreams and take a job that pays the bills. He harbors a growing resentment, “Is any part of my life even mine? All I do is meet needs for other people.”
Jonathan emotionally disengages from his marriage because his wife seems to reject him with her preoccupation with the kids, “Our marriage has become nothing more than a convenient partnership.”
Peel back the layers and you’ll find a sick heart.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” When life-giving hopes die, the question becomes, “What now? What takes their place?” Often, his answer is either a passive resignation or an active rebellion. Far too often, a man grows passive in the face of life’s stresses and hurts until there’s a breaking point and he starts to sabotage himself and those around him, almost as a matter of protest, “Fine then! Watch this!”
In a thousand creative ways, his will becomes detached from his being. He starts to give his time, energy, and attention to something other than his true identity and calling. And no amount of sex, drugs, toys, or achievements can mask the inevitable despair that will result.
Let’s rewind for a moment. Before that happens, you have a great opportunity.
Watching from the outside, you may hear his dreams and think, “It’s just his immaturity. Those dreams need to die. He needs to suck it up and do his job.” Some of that may be true, but it may also be that buried deep in his heart is a man waiting for permission to come alive and he needs your help peeling back some fears and insecurities.
Here’s where you can help him.
From Checked-Out to Checked-In
Champion his dreams!
Your belief in him means the world. In ways you’ll probably never know, your belief or lack thereof, is either a rocket booster or a prison chain. When he becomes passive or expresses hopes or fears in a moment of vulnerability, don’t miss your moment. Counter his self-doubt with faith. Encourage him to risk. It’s an adrenaline shot of confidence that will awaken him in every area of life.
Even if you feel like you’re speaking something into existence rather than affirming what’s already present, when you build up his character rather than question it and take the role of cheerleader rather than critic, you will see a new man come to life.
He needs to dream. They won’t all come true, but some of them might and they give him life. When he shares it with you, know that he’s opening his heart. Don’t kill it. Even if you think, “No way could this happen,” let it play out and encourage him in the process. The part of his heart that manufactures dreams needs to stay alive and if he’s sharing them with you, he’s given you one of the keys.
Join him in the dreaming. Help him sort out the potential from its distractions. Name his greatest strengths and how he can best use them. Remind him of what’s most important when he loses sight of it. Call him back to his first love and primary calling. In order to champion his dreams, you need to emotionally invest yourself in his dreaming.
I meet with so many middle-aged men who are simply disillusioned. They’re going through the rhythms of life largely checked-out. Some never rebel, but many do. Many more stop dreaming.
So, here’s a toast to the brilliant, world-changing ideas that exist just underneath a couple crazy one’s and more importantly, to you, who holds the key to the heart of the dreamer!
That’s good news —especially when we are feeling robbed. There is a higher place than the one we are seeing at the moment.
I have found, after overcoming some great hurdles in my own family, that we can run right to Jesus’ teaching when family difficulties and a clear lack of peace arise.
Pray for Those Stealing Your Peace
Don’t go to other people to talk, vent or validate. Go to God. Search His Word. Pray for them. Pray that God helps you see them as He sees them. Ask God to search your heart, flood you with His love, and renew your mind. Ask God for wisdom:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. —James 1:5
It’s incredible how often our struggles with people will stop right here. We don’t have to go any further. God softens our heart, changes our perspective, and we’re good.
When that’s not the case and it’s clear that a resolution is needed, it’s time to convene a peace conference.
Convene a Peace Conference
A peace conference is simply going to the person and facing the conflict, in the pursuit of peace.
Despite what people say, time doesn’t heal everything. Time can bury things, but buried things can still yield influence. It’s like a field with buried land mines in it, you just hope you know where not to step. It’s there, it’s damaging, and so we avoid it. It’s much better to clear out the land mines and the only way to really resolve conflict is to face it. Hold a peace conference.
Peace Conference 101
In the pursuit of peace, we need to be willing to take the first step. It’s not about blame. It’s not about our rights or who was at fault. Only the end goal of resolution should be in mind. It’s about sowing peace. If it’s not, go back to step one (prayer).
This is such a big deal to Jesus that in his first teaching he prioritized it over worship.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. — Matthew 5:23-24
“But leave your offering.” I love that! Reconciliation takes priority over worship. Don’t put it off, don’t wait for them to come around, don’t wait until it’s 6 feet under ground, go, do it today.
When you get there, don’t forget to remain vulnerable. It’s so easy for good intentions to turn into a venting session. Certainly, both grace and truth are necessary. If we’re all grace and no truth, it’s not real. If we’re all truth, no grace, it’s really bitter. We need both, together, interlocked at all times. It’s not instinctive, but when we can have the humility, love, and courage to face the truth, face the person, and possibly hear some painful truth as well, growth is a certain result.
For further reading, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande is a practical and insightful book on how to live in this world and walk in the peace we are intended. Another wonderful book is The Healing Presence by LeAnne Payne. Click on the image below for your opportunity to win your copy.
In a moment of desperation, have you ever announced to your teenager, “That’s it! You’re grounded for life!” These words are actually a better vision of what we want for our teens than they appear to be at first glance. Teenagers need to be “grounded.” They need deep roots and a strong sense of identity that comes from nurture and structure.
In reality, your teen will become grounded. She will find a place to belong and a community to affirm her identity. Will it be your home? Or will your lose your role to a peer group? The challenge we face as parents is how to ensure that our family remains their home base.
How does this happen? What does this healthy, nurturing soil look like that is conducive to being “grounded?”
Your teen is becoming more independent, but still needs to feel like he belongs in your family, that he is an insider —never an outsider. As he naturally starts to pursue this independence, it can translate into family exclusion. Priorities drag them away from the home…Friends, activities, school and family need to be reversed so they remain in proper order (family, school, friends and activities). It’s essential to hold a healthy tension here, allowing them to grow in independence while preserving a strong emotional bond.
Celebrate and affirm your child’s uniqueness and gifting. Make sure YOU are his biggest cheerleader, not a critic or judge.
Here’s a helpful image: Let’s say you’re teaching someone to ice skate. You’re in front, but you’re moving backward with an open posture and your eyes are on them. At first you are holding their hands, but you soon let go and give them some space, encourage them to stand up and skate on their own. If they fall, that’s okay! You’re encouraging them and not shaming or berating him. They feel safe with you. Safe enough to continue to improve, until they are finally skating on their own.
It’s like this with your teen. They are learning. You can’t allow your discipline to fracture your relationship or bruise them spiritually. Discipline is discipling, teaching. What I have to constantly tell myself is to be patient with repeated failures! Keep calling them up. Never push them down.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love always believes the best in him. Pray everyday for him, “Father help me to see my child the way You see him. Help me to bless him and affirm him as the man you are calling forth.”
Stay away from lectures. They can be filled with words that communicate disappointment, anger, and rejection. Instead of lecturing. try active listening, re-do’s and natural, consistent consequences.
As your teen becomes more independent an emotional connection becomes more challenging. Always be willing to be “the pursuer” of the relationship. This provides a clear picture of the way our heavenly Father pursues us.
And above all else —never withhold love. Love is not synonymous with approval. We are called to love unconditionally. Learn to make that clear separation that allows you to love and encourage while still upholding the consequences you have laid out.
A secure, consistent and loving space to fly, and occasionally fail are necessary elements to a well grounded teen.
Wesley Furlong is the founder and director of City of Refuge (refuge.life), a network for community transformation and the director of Church Development for the EVANA Network, an evangelical Anabaptist network of churches across North America.