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Setting Boundaries: Being vs. Doing

Our endless to-do list stares us in the face, daring us to once again prove that we are capable and strong. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. Energy for ministry used to flow so freely without the constant need to push ourselves to the limit. When we are still, we notice our hearts crying out silently, in pain, fearful that the facade we’ve presented time and again may be crumbling. We attempt to sleep, but our minds race back to our to-do list. We feel anger rising up because everyone else seems to be able to express their needs and their pain. Do we dare muster the courage to ask, “What about my needs and my heart?” We need rest; we need boundaries.

My to-do list changed dramatically when I moved to my family vineyard in 1997. My list shifted away from ministry in the church as a DCE to tractors and quads, irrigation and harvest in my family’s vineyard business. Over time, as I watched the seasons and vineyard practices, my way of thinking about my to-do list was altered as well.

Jesus’ words, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Abide in me” (see John 15:4&5), were the catalyst for the shift in my thinking. I watched workers in the field tend to a process called grafting which takes place only once in the life of a vine. A tiny bud is cut away from a branch of a strong vine such as Cabernet Sauvignon. The freshly cut bud is placed into the wound made in the flesh of a non-fruit bearing vine called rootstock. I watched men cutting the bud and the rootstock. I saw bleeding and watched a band-aid like substance placed over the wound. I watched the healing, the growing, the seasons and eventually the fruit of the vine mature.

Christ’s call to abide in Him, as a branch abides in the vine, gently urged my heart forward as I began to understand and trust Christ’s call to grow in Him. Here are a few parallels between our relationship to Christ as branches of The Vine and living our lives in faith. We are human beings and the life of Christ, the True Vine is our home. We were grafted in by his doing; we are called to be in Him and receive from Him. Everything we do flows from being in Christ. We are human beings, not human doings. From our position of being, we create and fulfill our to-do lists. We practice our faith and express our love by saying “yes” to some tasks or saying “no” to other tasks. Tasks we say yes to flow from being in Christ, not from a desperate search for value or a flailing attempt to please others. Even unpleasant tasks included in our job description take on a richer meaning as we meditate on being grafted into Christ’s life, his energy and life flowing in us and through us.

The Band-aid® provides another rich image of healing. It is a boundary to keep the good in. The tiny “v” shaped bud fits beautifully into the perfect cut in the flesh of the rootstock. The Band-aid® keeps the bud and the powerfully flowing sap in so that healing the deep wound can take place. The bud fuses with the rootstock and after a time, a visible scar can be seen. The bud grows to become the trunk and then a branch. The Apostle Peter declared these powerful words, “By his wounds we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24). I use a Band-aid® as a bookmark in my Bible to remind me of the healing that is mine in Christ.

The Band-aid®, while keeping the good in, creates a boundary to keep the bad out. Setting healthy boundaries accomplishes this for us. Here are two examples: Being compassionate, loving and kind to others means we walk beside them in their pain without taking their wounds into ourselves. Self-care includes feeding all aspects of our being, regularly and intentionally. We feed our body good food; we feed our emotions, heart, soul and spirit healthy nutrition. Unhealthy stuff doesn’t pass the Band-aid® boundary.

The roots of the vine, which often span ten feet below the surface of the soil, provide another important image. Christ is the Root, our home. Water, nutrition and stability flow from his holy life to us. Our holiness is a result of being in Christ, not secured by a life of doing. Paul said, “If the root is holy, the branches are holy” (Romans 11:16b). Our familial roots may have propagated our feelings of not being enough, being inadequate or unworthy of love. Our past (or current) actions may continue to breed shame or self-condemnation. We are called to identify and wrestle with our unhealthy thinking and habits so that we understand the complexities of our particular way of being and doing. The word of God calls us to grow in faith and understanding of our lives in the perfect life of Christ, the Root.

Setting boundaries allows being and doing to flow freely, together in beautiful concert. From our being, our position of rest and healing in Christ, we do our to-do list. When our doing is in constant competition with our being or when our being is defined solely by our doing, we work against ourself and God’s intentional design for rest and work. Being and doing from a position of abiding in Christ’s life means that even while we work we are at rest.

Setting healthy boundaries is Christ at work in our lives, not only guiding us further into self care, but also leading us to be examples to others. Those we are called to serve need to practice setting healthy boundaries too. Setting boundaries leads to a joyful life of restful being and intentional doing.

Cindy Steinbeck is a retired LC-MS DCE and owner of Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, CA. She completed her undergraduate work at Concordia University Portland and her Master of Arts degree at Concordia University Irvine. She founded Voice In The Vineyard Ministries, published 3 books with CPH, and travels extensively speaking the message of hope and healing in Christ. Cindy loves working with her parents, two children and their spouses in the family business. She enjoys playing with her four grandchildren.

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