Jesus, Son of the only wise God, did something better. He set healthy boundaries for Himself. He healed and cared for others but He also repaired and prepared Himself. Here is how you can too.
"Jesus often retreated to lonely places to pray" Luke 5:16 NIV
The clamor, the demands, the expectations, the decisions. Go to bed, get up, start again. Sounds like life in your Harbor Home, right? Mine too. Like us, Jesus knew well the complications of being the leader of a community. He and His apostles functioned very much as a family, with all the complications and joys. Perhaps it was a bit like your Harbor Home and mine. They were busy doing their work, they had responsibilities that required attention and extended families that needed care. On top of all that, it was not uncommon for the twelve to squabble among themselves over really silly things. I wonder how many times Jesus wanted to just send them all to bed or say, "Don't make me come over there!" "I'm going to count to three, mister!" or "James, leave your brother alone!" I know I would have been tempted.
But Jesus, Son of the only wise God, (Romans 16:27) did something better. He set healthy boundaries for Himself. He healed and cared for others but He also repaired and prepared Himself. This is a sound practice, especially for those of us who spend our lives serving and nurturing others. It is so easy, speaking as a woman with strong hospitality and service gifts, to become depleted emotionally, physically, and spiritually while serving and caring for loved ones or coworkers or just meeting the day to day demands of carpools and homework and baths and bedtime and meals.
We nurturers love to pour ourselves into the lives of others. It's who we are, not just what we do. But, like everything, serving constantly and consistently comes with some unintended consequences such as exhaustion, isolation, anxiety, or the fear that we haven't yet done enough. There is always more to do, and many of us with the spiritual gifts of service and hospitality push ourselves to keep going even when our bodies and our minds are screaming for a rest. I don't know about you, but it took a long time for me to figure out that setting some healthy boundaries, being kind to my body and mind allows my Harbor Home to be all that we need and want it to be. Safe. Joyful. Peaceful.
Setting boundaries that keep us well, while maintaining the relationships we love can seem very challenging. Sometimes it just feels easier to continue giving of ourselves until there's nothing left, then grabbing just enough restoration to survive another day. But this is not good for anyone. It is not good for us, and it is ultimately not good for those we love. Those who depend on us to sustain their needs (spouses, children, older parents,needy friends, etc.) don't necessarily see that you need regular rest and encouragement, affirmation and support. It is up to us, the servant-hearts, to lovingly and in a Christ like manner put healthy boundaries in place so that we can continue to give and serve.
Taking the action required to establish the habit of refreshing yourself is something that only you can do. No one else can express this for you. It is important to take control of your time, energy and personal joy. Even if the thought of taking time to feed your own soul makes you feel anxious or selfish or even if you believe that you can not do it, take a moment to think about something. Jesus often retreated. Read that again. Often. Often retreated. Jesus often retreated. He couldn't continue His ministry that was deeply personal and sacrificial without retreating often. Your ministry to your loved ones is deeply personal and sacrificial. Do as Jesus did. Retreat. Often.
I hear you. You are wondering what to do with the toddlers and infants and kindergartners that you have to take care of. I've been there. There is the aged mother in law that needs hands on care from you. I've been there too. Carving out the time to repair yourself from all that you have poured out and to prepare yourself to pour out again takes intentionality, prior planning, and deliberate action.
Like much of what goes in to making a Harbor Home, this will not happen by accident. The good news is that there are some concrete steps that you can take in order to give yourself the space you need. You will be amazed at how much peace you will feel when you take these steps.
Remind yourself that setting boundaries is about repairing and preparing. You are not being selfish or lazy. You are setting yourself up to be more effective. You have permission from the example of Jesus to spend time refreshing your own mind and body.
Determine what specifically is draining your spirit. Perhaps you can deal with two preschoolers for hours every day and that doesn't drain you the way fifteen minutes on the phone with your stepmother does. Take care that you are determining what the drain on you really is. If others try to tell you that you are drained by your volunteer work but you know that you are really drained by listening to every detail of your cousin's marriage problems, just say so. This is your decision. Only you are living your life.
Decide what you need. Is it quiet time to read and pray? Is it recreation time to shop or workout? Just a few hours to yourself in your own home? Define what would recharge you. Again, I caution you to make this decision alone. If your pastor's wife thinks that you should walk a prayer labyrinth twice a week, but that makes you want to stab yourself in the eye with a pencil, just say no thank you. Your yoga obsessed friend will get over it if you just need to be able to walk through a big box store for an hour undisturbed. Do what feeds you.
Set a timer for conversations that suck the life out of you. You don't have to listen all afternoon three afternoons a week to the acquaintance from church who has a laundry list of drama and self inflicted problems. You don't have to take every call, and when you do take the call, simply say that you only have a few minutes. Then set a timer or watch the clock. Decide on a time limit. Then stick to it. Seriously. It is okay to do this.
Say the words, "I'm going to..." There is no need to apologize. There is no need to shout or issue threats. Calmly, pleasantly, graciously say what you are going to do. Make arrangements ahead of time if you need childcare or similar assistance. But the whole process begins by saying these words: "I'm going to..." then filling in the blank with phrases like "be back in two hours" or "go for a walk" or "read for a while" or "stretch out for thirty minutes". Just say it.
Do Whatever it is, and leave the rest behind. Repairing and preparing is about truly setting aside the burdens and stress you are carrying. This takes practice. For some of us it takes a whole lot of practice. Don't ask me how I know. But I do. Just sayin.
In your Harbor Home, everyone is valued. That includes you. Take care that you follow the example of Jesus and give yourself some space to repair and prepare.