Recently Caiden and I were sharing a slice of banana chocolate chip coffee cake. He wanted to eat with his fingers, but I was trying to share with a fork. We weren’t sitting in the high chair with a bib and all the other fineries of a typical meal, so I was worried about his hands getting covered in chocolate. He insisted on taking the coffee cake off my fork with his fingers, so I told him that he couldn’t have any if he didn’t use the fork. He refused to use the fork, so I finished the coffee cake myself. (Quickly, of course, because he was having a little meltdown.)
I struggled with that decision. Did it really matter if his hands were messy? Of course it didn’t. The problem was that I laid down a boundary. It was arbitrary and perhaps hastily laid, but I nonetheless I made the statement, “No fork, no coffee cake.” This struggle over coffee cake got me wondering about the boundaries God sets in our lives.
Some of the boundaries we set for Caiden involve safety. As long as his enormous enthusiasm doesn’t get the best of him, he knows to hold our hands at the crosswalk as he looks to the left and right saying, “No car. No car. Go go go gogogogogogogo.” It’s dangerous to let a 21-month-old run into the street unattended. This boundary is about safety.
God also sets boundaries for our safety, right? His commands about sex, marriage and marital faithfulness; don’t murder, steal, or envy your neighbor are all intended on some level to keep us safe.
But what about the boundaries I set for Caiden that are not about safety? What about “The Coffee Cake Incident?” Safety wasn’t an issue, and I suppose that’s why it was a struggle for me. Would it have been terrible if I caved? It wouldn’t, but if my words are going to carry any weight with my son, I needed to stand by them, especially when boundaries are the issue.
This is hard for me because I love my son, so I want to give him what he wants. But I also know he needs boundaries. They are an important part of his emotional and relational development. He needs these limits because they teach him that he can’t have everything he wants, and they help him learn to appropriately handle situations when he doesn’t.
What if some of the boundaries God lays are similar? Of course some of his boundaries are about safety, but what if some of his boundaries have more to do with simple limits? What if the boundaries God sets in our lives also serve as a reminder that we don’t get everything we want, or to put it another way, what if God’s boundaries are to remind us that he is God and we are not?