I’ve been thinking more about the question I posed last week in my message “Know Me.” If you remember, I challenged everyone to take a moment and think about what you want people to know about you. I briefly reflected on the trepidation people have in answering this, addressing the fear that may accompany answering such a question about your life. Doing this comes with a level of responsibility to follow through with putting that thing out there to the world. This is the part that I feel I need to explore some more in order to identify what holds a person back from actually living out the passions in their heart. One such thing that God highlighted to me this week was self-imposed borders.
I need to make a distinction here between borders and boundaries. Both are represented in the Bible, and in fact, interchanged by God Himself in reference to physical points of separation between two regions or lands. This is not the context that I’m referring to; instead, I want to look at these two words in relation to the way that God made you and me. For the sake of simplicity, I want to define border as: an outer part or edge, and boundary as: limits that define acceptable behavior. Both definitions are accurate according to Webster’s dictionary, and I’ll explain how both are perfectly acceptable to apply to the context of our lives. My study of the Scripture points to living a life with boundaries, but without borders. Boundaries establish healthy guidelines necessary for both the protection and self-expression of what’s inside of us, while borders encapsulate and quench such things. A key to this entire topic is understanding that the deep things we want people to know about us are primarily a part of our spirit.
Beginning with the example of God Himself, I want to take you on a journey through the Bible which will shed some light on to what I’m referring. As we look in the book of Exodus, we will see that God very clearly lays out some foundational truths such as this:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth or in the waters below.” (Exodus 20:4)
This may sound familiar because it’s the second in the line of ten commandments, and one in which God continues on to warn of impending punishment for those who craft and worship such things. I’ve heard some interpretations of this verse go so far as to say that we should never attempt to think about in our mind or artistically express any image of God Himself. I feel this is a bit extreme and would require a person to somehow “cut-off” their imagination, which is contrary to how we were created.
Instead, we have to look at the first commandment, where God is setting us up to truly grasp the nature of who He is. He begins by establishing He is the One True God, and that we shall have no other God’s before Him (Exodus 20:2-3). He goes on to add in the second commandment that we are not to attempt to create something with finite lines and borders to worship, or we have completely lost sight of who He is. Fashioning something that is tangible is a false representation of His makeup, because He consists of something outside of a physical form that we will talk about soon. Throughout the Bible it is clear that God hates when people do this, and it’s the same reaction we have when someone misrepresents us.
What I find fascinating about the Ten Commandments is how God is boldly declaring that He cannot be defined by borders while clearly defining boundaries for His people – the things that define acceptable behavior. We need to follow suit, abolish borders and establish boundaries in our own lives as a way for people to truly see what’s in our hearts and to live with honor. It may sound easy enough, but we naturally do the opposite. By telling ourselves we can’t do certain things, we avoid the risk involved and create self-limiting borders. At the same time, we resist any hint of an authoritative boundary that is actually meant to keep our hearts safe. In other words, we will listen to ourselves over God, saying belief in Him and His ways are restricting, yet it’s our self-created borders which keep us from ever moving forward, never taking the risks in order to strive for more. We remain stuck in unfulfilled dreams and engaging in destructive behavior. Have you ever listened to someone who is in the struggle to breakthrough towards what they know is out there for their life? One of the most common phrases people use to describe how they feel, is they’ve hit a “wall” – because they have! Walls are self-constructed borders that must come down in order to move on as opposed to boundaries that are guidelines to work within during the process forward.
What’s been established up to this point is that God, as well as people, are not to have man-made borders placed around them. We simply cannot emulate the life God is modeling, or the freedom Jesus died for, if we are trapped by barriers designed to limit our reach. Because of this, it’s important to examine what the Bible says is the true embodiment of God, and consequently, what makes up a big part of who we are as well.
In one of the most famous stories from John’s gospel, Jesus is having a very candid conversation with a Samaritan woman caught in a destructive life cycle (see John chapter 4). She had already had five husbands and was currently living with a man she wasn’t married to. Seated next to a well and drawing upon the analogy of water, Christ offered her eternal life through a relationship with him, as well as a way to never thirst again for the things stored up in her heart. It was obvious she was unsatisfied in her ways, knowing she was burying the true self she was meant to show. Her destructive lifestyle had gone on for so long that she had literally worn a path along the borders she built through relationships with men, and her identity had been swallowed up completely. In her own words she expressed, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15). In other words – I don’t want to do this anymore. In response, Jesus begins to bring the abstract version of God she was used to into focus, explaining that the day is coming soon that all will truly know who He is. Before he ends his conversation by revealing himself to her, he says three words that are very important: “God is spirit” (John 4:24).
Why is this so important? Because it directly addresses the truth that God lives without borders. Christ also said, “…a spirit does not have flesh and bones,” furthering the proof that God is not to be contained (Luke 24:39). Jesus was speaking directly to, and beginning to awaken, the spirit inside of the Samaritan woman. He wanted her to know that although God has no physical features like we possess, He maintains the ability to see, touch, hear, taste, and smell! When we begin to lift borders off of ourselves, our lack of “features,” or what we think we need, have no influence on our abilities because we consist of spirit too. It’s hard to comprehend, but nonetheless true, and Scripture will once again prove it.
In order to see how this all fits together, there are two more truths that must be looked at. They both address how we were created. First, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Next, “For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14).
Taking everything we’ve learned into account, if God is spirit and He wonderfully crafted us in His own image, then we can conclude that the main part of who we are is spirit as well. The one obvious difference is, however, unlike God, we possess a body. In spite of this, we mustn’t let the restrictions we are used to in our physical bodies spill over into what God is drawing forth in our spirits. Because we consist of spirit too, it means that limited eyesight will never keep us from creating a masterpiece. Being born without a limb will never choke out the part of us that wants to climb a mountain. Inexperience in understanding music will never be the weight that crushes the song in our hearts. Broken relationships at the hands of imperfect men and women will never keep us from experiencing the perfect love of God. A life without borders but governed by God’s boundaries, is an incredibly beautiful existence because it gives access to that place in us where our hopes and dreams live. It’s a place that is driven by our spirits and can only be realized when we partner with the One who is spirit.