The Narrow Gate: Making Spiritual Course CorrectionsSeptember 2, 2013
Guard Rails: Our Need for BoundariesSeptember 2, 2013
A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. 5 In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards (Puts a guardrail of protection around) his soul stays far from them.”1
We need guardrails in our lives, and it’s up to us to put them there. Guardrails protect us from drifting so far off course we end up in a dangerous ditch. Guardrails can also serve as barriers we erect to help us defeat those frustrating Masters we have allowed to enslave us.
We need guardrails because we humans so often like to push to the limit, to see how close we can get to the edge without a problem.
Single men consistently ask, “How far can I go, without going too far?” Many married men are silently pursuing the same agenda, but hopefully with a slightly different slant: “How much can I flirt; how friendly can I be; how much can I look; where is the line?”
Women do this, too, in these same arenas, as well as others.
Our circumstances may be different, but sooner or later we all ask, “How close I can get without actually, technically, sinning?”
A friend visited Niagara Falls and told me about a particular rock out-cropping that provided spectacular views of the falls. He said there was a guardrail erected about 15 feet back from the edge, with a warning sign that says, “Beware! Thirty-eight people have fallen to their death.”
Yet every year someone goes over the railing to … get closer to the edge.
What is their thought process?
“It won’t happen to me.”
“Just this one time.”
“A little closer won’t hurt anything.”
And I’m not just talking about neon light sins. Many of you like to go right to the edge with your dysfunctional and destructive coping mechanisms. They don’t work, and always exasperate the situation. And your relationships are suffering mightily.
So we place guardrails in areas we know we are weak, or tempted, or have repeatedly failed before. And we do not place them right on the edge. No, we place them far enough back that even if we bump into them, the damage will not be catastrophic.
But, and this is a big but, the specifications for a guardrail must include some degree of pain, or they will be meaningless. And they also must be solid, with detailed specs, and with no wiggle-room for rationalization.
I would guess most dads aren’t real big on their teenage daughters being in a house with a boy alone. Notice we dads wouldn’t say, “Now honey, you can be in the house, and you can go in his bedroom, just don’t get in the bed.”
No, we would say, “I’m locking you in our house until you’re 43!” (Just kidding … slightly)
A recently divorced man was telling me that he was seeing a woman and he wanted to avoid the whole sex thing with her. I asked him what his guardrail was. He replied, “We are going no farther than a glass of wine on the sofa. No bedroom stuff at all.”
That’s not a guardrail, that’s an invitation.
We need guardrails primarily because in the moment, when we are struggling with whether or not to do it, say it, or yell it, our cost-benefit analysis is skewed. Looking back, we see clearly the long-term cost of such behavior is far greater than any short-term benefit. But the problem is that in the moment, we are only thinking of the short-term benefit, with barely a nod to any cost at all.
A guardrail might be a financial penalty you impose on yourself. It might be a public confession to someone to whom you would be embarrassed to do so.
I know a man who set up a “cuss” jar; a woman who put a gossip jar in her kitchen: $10 goes in the jar each time, in front of her children. Another, a promise to call her mother-in-law (oh my) each time she snaps at her husband or children. Another vowed no golf for a month if he is ever on his cellphone when his children get in the car.
And yet another, no TV during the week, or else, as a penalty, no TV at all for that weekend. Including the football game – now that’s ridiculous!
If You Want a Little More: Below is a list of areas you where you might need a guardrail.
But listen to me and don’t miss this: if you are reading this and thinking, “I know a lot of people who could sure use this, but I’m okay. I can’t see any need for guardrails in my life.”
You’re not okay. You’re delusional. A fool, quite frankly.
Guardrails help keep us “walking in the light” to the A+ Life.2
God will show you where. The specifications and installation are up to you.
Money/Spending/Tithing / Saving/Giving/Greed
Drinking – smoking – dipping – chewing
Heart Attitudes: resentment – judgment – pride
What We Look at – Listen to
Friends: beneficial to your growth or not?
Facebook – Twitter
Electronics: Smart Phones – iPads etc.
Children’s Activities -Travel Squads