Grace, Submission, and Boundaries

Valerie Comment

Grace, submission, and boundaries? There is part of me that has the song “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other” stuck in my head. The part of me weighed down by “how to be a godly woman” Bible studies, Christian radio “how to be a godly woman” programs, Christian “how to be a godly woman” books lining the shelves of the Christian bookstores. By the time I’ve finished studying, listening, or reading, I’m often thinking I will never quite measure up unless I give and give and give…and then give some more.

And not that Bible studies, radio programs, and books are bad. They aren’t. But hey, I’m human. And in my human-ness, I am really good at putting pressure on myself. 

And in our human-ness we are really good at putting pressure on each other. 

Most likely, we have all been on the receiving end of being told the state of our heart rather than asked about the state of our heart. And most likely, we all have been the one telling someone the state of their heart rather than asking someone about the state of their heart.

Assumptions, guilt, shame, duty, pressure, obligation.

So how do grace, submission, and boundaries go together?

The more I learn about God, the more I learn about myself and others, the more I see love in boundaries. Receiving God’s grace and extending God’s grace is not void of setting boundaries. Receiving and extending grace includes boundaries.

I have been reading from Dr. Kai Nilsen quite a bit lately. He wrote this about submission: “Submission reminds us it is better to be in right relationship than always having to be right. We give ourselves to one another mutually, as learners and teachers, leaders and followers, desiring only the best for all. This discipline has been horribly abused in Christian community over the centuries – pastors imposing their wills on their people, husbands demanding strict obedience from their wives, parents wielding a heavy hand on their children as they punish “in accordance with the will of God.” Nothing could be further from the truth of this discipline. Submission invites us to humble, open, mutually dependent relationship with God and with one another. We accept our place as servants of God, not masters of our own destiny. We relish being both learner and teacher, leader and follower, creators of vision and those who do the ordinary work of carrying it out.”

Dr. Nilsen’s words, “mutually dependent relationship with God and with one another” really struck me.

As I sat reflecting on grace, boundaries, and submission, I realized that submission for me meant doing the relationship “right” rather than being in right relationship. My lack of boundaries is my way of managing my relationships out of the fear of not pleasing people. I would rather be in right relationship than consumed with guilt and fear.

Receiving and extending grace frees me to set boundaries out of love, and grace clears the muddy waters about submission.

While I genuinely love helping and serving others, my greatest strength is also my greatest weakness. 

Man, it’s messy and enmeshed. It’s unwinding a pile of intertwined cords. And I am still unwinding. And I am guessing it will be a lifetime of unwinding. Because it is a lifetime of realizing the ways I try to make life work apart from God.

Processing is…well…it’s a process. And I am grateful that God patiently allows the process.

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