Good Boundaries3 min read

{excerpt from Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission}

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

 surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16.6)

One thing I have experienced in the time I’ve spent at psychiatric hospitals is that there are many rules. Rules about toiletries, belt buckles, shoes with strings, and other personal effects. Rules about visits and contact with others. Rules about schedules — time to sleep and meet and eat and rest. Since I am one who generally functions best with good, clear boundaries, these rules haven’t bothered me so much. I’ve benefited quite well from them and have come to appreciate their value. There’s a part of us all, though, that constantly tries to get around the rules.

Like the man who found a staff person willing to bring him Starbuck’s coffee (for a steep tip, no doubt) to replace the lukewarm dishwater they served us from the cafeteria.

Like the woman who gained permission to use the public exercise room as her personal hip-hop dance studio, with her boom box pounding through the protective glass.

Like the couple who found a way to prop a broom against the laundry room door so they could get around the “no-fraternization-with-the-opposite-sex” rule.

I have learned that rules are good for me. But I still “kick against the goads” (as the Bible puts it).  I stay in bed with the curtains closed instead of fighting through a depression. I ride a high into the night, obsessively making music playlists for friends that are much more depositories of meaningless manic energy. I skip church when I know the healthiest place for me to be is within a fellowship of believers.

As chaotic as the world is around me and as distorted as my mind is within me, I rely on rules to keep me safe, if not wholly sane. Only when I have good, firm boundaries can I survive, and even thrive within this crazy and often predictable world.

Praise be to God who gives us such boundaries for life. As the Psalmist says,

“It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth.” (Psalm 74:17a)


About the Author:

I am a man with an unquiet mind who delights in the One who delights in me.