The idea of boundaries is something we, as modern 21st century humans, have tried to do away with. And who could blame us? If boundaries, by definition, are limitations to where we go, who we see, and what we pursue, does that not go against our grain? Did our parents and grandparents not cross geographical boundaries to invest in a better life for their children? Do we not strive (ie struggle) for the degrees that will enable us to push past those professional barriers of success? We don’t even allow ourselves physical or emotional distance from loved ones, constantly connected via social media and instant messaging. Let’s face it, to recognize boundaries in our lives is to recognize something that isn’t there.
On one hand, that last statement isn’t too far from the truth. We don’t have boundaries for ourselves, but it’s not because they don’t exist; rather, we have deluded ourselves into thinking it is a concept left behind in the Dark Ages. We have forgotten the order by which God created the world, with the purpose of the Earth’s inhabitants preserving what was wonderfully made. In the words of Kind David the Psalmist, “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions” (Psalm 104: 24). The boundaries created and set by our Lord is what has sustained a livable environment for our existence. Nonetheless, the need for boundaries does not stop with the Creation story but is the foundation by which we should mirror our lives.
Besides the fact that we are made in the Image and Likeness of God, we are also “set apart as holy to the LORD [our] God, and He has chosen [us] from all the nations of the earth to be His own special treasure” (Deuteronomy 14:2). As Christians, we have the crucial responsibility of upholding the sanctity of our calling, embodying the Light of Christ while spreading the Good News. Are we living out our Baptism? The best way to tell is by evaluating not only your own spirituality, but of those around you.
Yes, you read correctly. The beaten cliché strung together with different words, “you are who you surround yourself with”. Now before you deem this article a waste of your time and that if you had wanted a lecture you could have gone to your parent, apply this concept with the lost belief in boundaries. Are we allowing those in our circle influence how we perceive our relationship with God? Do our friends and family encourage us to deepen our love for Him, or do they perpetuate the very reasons why we just “don’t have any time”? Perhaps on a more personal level, we are the ones responsible of robbing ourselves of those joys by reveling in the distractions for which we place no limits.
The need for discipline and diligence in our relationship with God calls to mind the story of HH Pope Kyrillos VI. Long before he was a monk, let alone a Pope, Kyrillos (Azer Atta) was like you and I, a layperson going about his day-to-day responsibilities. Nonetheless, he felt that his present lifestyle was limiting his connection with God, longing for the seclusion of monastic life. Kyrillos had to wait five years before he entered the monastic order, largely due to his family’s opposition. During this period, Kyrillos’ family was a boundary, an obstacle, from Kyrillos living out his desire for ascetism. However, he did not succumb to discouragement; instead, he chose to incorporate the disciplines of a monk into his life. Now, many of us probably feel no calling to seek out the desert in all its isolated glory, but do we have the same perseverance to live out our calling against all odds or foes?
St. Anthony the Great elaborates on this idea of possessing discretion when it comes to how and with whom we spend our time. As recorded by St. Athanasius in the Life of Saint Anthony, a certain duke asked for St. Anthony’s blessing in spending time with him. Upon an early point in their meeting, St. Anthony excused himself. The duke, having been enjoying himself, wondered why St. Anthony had to leave in such a haste. St. Anthony replied, “Fishes, if they remain long on dry land, die. And so, monks lose their strength if they loiter among you.” This is the kind of definitive commitment we should have when something or someone interferes with our relationship with God. These are the boundaries that will set us apart as God’s chosen people (1 Peter 2:9).
But I’ve lied— we are actually very good at setting boundaries in one specific area of our lives. When it comes to God, we have specific and strict restrictions. Our prayer lives are confined to those few minutes in the morning and at night. Our fasting doesn’t venture beyond Wednesday’s and Friday’s. Our attendance for liturgies is reserved for the three designated hours on Sunday. Although it is important to be diligent in those practices, how quick are we to trade those opportunities for growth with less fulfilling things? We trade our Bible readings for FaceTime calls. We would rather go out than attend youth. We prefer scrolling through social media than paying attention during midnight vigils.
Let’s practice mindfulness in how we prioritize our relationship with God, for His love and Being are boundless.