Isn’t life all about relationships? Why, then, would we need to have boundaries? Aren’t we supposed to give sacrificially of ourselves, encourage, listen, and draw others close? I struggle to know how much of myself to give and when to draw the line, because relationships are so important to me. I want to get it right. My guess is they’re important to you too, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
            In recent years the word “boundaries” has helped define healthy margins, and how we can establish and maintain them. Christians often allow the demands of relationships to spill to the very edge of their being, but this, I am learning, is not a true interpretation of God’s Word.
           God created us to need meaningful relationships. But He knows our tendency to either give too much or behave selfishly. So He set margins, or boundaries, for us to keep, that protect and nourish both our souls and the souls of others. 

            I hope this image helps explain what I mean. In the middle of our “page” are all our relationships – people we interact with everyday at work, school, in our community or church. We play, laugh, learn, and grow with them. We spend the bulk of our time with them and many become very dear to us.
            However, our closest relationships are the ones in the side margins. These margins need to be cherished and protected. If we get out of balance –and all of us do –our central relationships will either take over, leaving no margins, or one or more of the margins will take more than its fair share. Not surprisingly, our first and most important margin relationship is with God.
Intimacy With God:
            If you’re a Christian, you live and move and have your being in Christ. So actually our relationship with Him encompasses and weaves through every other relationship. The margin with God, then, is not the onlytime we have with Him, but the time we devote solely to Him – to nourish a personal, intimate relationship. In this time we seek His guidance (Psa. 5:3) and hunger and thirst to know Him more (Psa. 42:1-2, 63:1-8; Matt. 5:6). No one else can take His place (1 Sam. 2:2; Luke 14:25-27; John 6:67-69).
            The problem comes when we allow other relationships to take precedence over our eternal life-connection with God. Like other relationships, it requires regular communication (prayer is a conversation, not a monologue), focused, meaningful time with our Lord, and complete honesty. Is God your number one Love? If this margin is slim to non-existent – set your alarm, get out of bed, put down the remote or cell phone, and excuse yourself from whatever else you’ve been doing and go on a daily date with God.
Personal Space:
            The need for personal space to refuel varies widely from person to person. Some are energized by constant interaction and don’t need a lot of alone time to process or tinker. People who like to be alone – to work, create, make decisions, or learn – may love being with others, but it depletes their energy. So they need to get alone to recharge. Each of us needs to have a margin that meets our own needs, whether it’s social time or solitude. This gets tricky when a “social bug” marries or is best friends with a “loner” and insists the other live at their pace. So the next margin we need to look at is…Giving Others’ Space. I will cover that in tomorrow’s post as we continue to look at “Margins in Relationships.”