Weak Boundary: A Lesson From Dog-sitting

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I’m dog-sitting this week. And next week. Fifteen days of just me and “man’s best friend.” Only this pampered fella is pretty self-absorbed … and now, five days in, our time together is, at moments, wearing thin.

Like, he doesn’t want to accept that my every minute is NOT focused on him, no matter how many times he whines and barks and slides into that really adorable move he’s perfected: hanging his chin over my knee and gazing up at me with an angelic expression as I sit at the kitchen counter trying to get this blog post written.

The dog is a master manipulator … he boldly asks for what he wants, when he wants it … and I feel the pressure to give in, as he’s wearing me down with his persistent “asks.” There’s a God lesson here, don’t ya think? Read on.


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The Problem: Weak Boundary

This is a post about expectations … and the desire to please. Both good things. But without good boundaries, you and I can end up feeling like I am feeling in this moment: a bit burned out and irritated that I am clearly expected to endlessly give. Some truth: I HID IN THE BATHROOM THIS MORNING JUST TO GIVE MYSELF A MOMENT OF “ME” TIME! lol.

So here’s the lesson I think God wants me to share:

God doesn’t want us feeling resentful, or burned out, or tired from the asks of life. Mostly because they never stop coming. Rather, God wants us to be able to give sacrificially AND joyfully, by actively mirroring the servant mindset of Christ. But how do we consistently do that?

Jesus must have been dog-tired at times when the needy crowds crushed in on Him. But He never lashed out at their clamoring to be noticed and healed. Nor did He allow Himself to get burned out, which could have easily led Him to not bringing His best. He recognized when He needed alone time with God, and He took it, despite the crowd’s pleas that He continue to serve. Jesus set that firm boundary BECAUSE He wanted to be able to continue to pour Himself out in service for others.

Just like me, Jesus had to work within the constraints of His human body. He got tired like me. He probably got impatient like me. He probably needed snacks and naps like me, when I get a case of the “crankies.” But where Jesus got His real rest, renewal, and recharging was in His alone time with God. It’s the secret sauce, if you will, that He told us to liberally ingest daily.

Too often, however, I don’t reinforce that boundary. I can let the whole day slide by with my operating in my own strength. When I crash and burn, it reminds me of my need to be plugged into God’s power.

The Solution: Strong Boundary

As psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud teaches in his “Boundaries” books and online training, without firm walls, we’re like castles lacking a strong defense. Our moat is a joke, and our main gate is down for anyone, anything, or any thought to skip right on in and mess us up.

Dr. Cloud bases his foundation on the wisest book in the world: the Bible. God talks about boundaries A LOT in His Word, because He knows we so desperately need them to bring our best and enjoy our best life. Boundaries give us power. Not in a warrior type of way, but in a quietly centered way.

Christ’s power didn’t come from bulging muscles crafted from hurling tree stumps. His holy power came from His continual connection with God, which enabled Him to keep on giving.

You and I have the same Holy Spirit within us as His followers. Jesus reminds us, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” When we seek time with Him, He renews us and fills us up. If you have a boundary issue (and fess up: you probably will have a few until your last breath), do the work of shoring up your castle walls with daily God time.

How to know if you have a weak boundary in your present circumstance? Tip: the lack shows up best when you find yourself frustrated. Trace that frustration back to the source. Is it because you’re running on empty, instead of in the fullness of Christ?

Guess what? My furry pal is again seeking my attention. Eyes alight, tail wagging, I can tell he’s already anticipating my buy-in. Oh, right, it’s time for our 3pm walk to the mailbox. (How the heck is he able to tell time??!!) I sigh, but I have to “own” that I set this mid-day ritual. He’s just asking that I continue it — today, and tomorrow, and every day following until his human family returns and he gets back to his usual schedule.

So I grab his leash, and he can barely contain his joy. At least one of us is exuberant! But I know what needs to happen when we return home: I need to again hide out in the bathroom and open my Bible. As eagerly as my furry friend seeks after me, I should be seeking after the Creator of the Universe.

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder. Thank you for always being eagerly available to me and my asks, 24/7. And thank you for always having my best in mind when I make my requests.

Next Steps

  • We’d love to pray for you! Submit a prayer request to us here.
  • Jump over to our 14-day Prayer Guide to help build your prayer habit!
  • Grab a free 14-day trial of Dr. Cloud’s online Boundaries training here. It’s excellent.
  • Do you have heart wounds that keep getting triggered? Check out our Resolution Movement. Healing is possible!

Sheri Bell writes and edits for Josh McDowell Ministry.

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