Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blessing the Boundaries, Part 1

  The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
         You support my lot.
  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
         Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

We all face boundaries in our lives that define our sphere of activity and limit our freedom of action.  King David here calls them "lines" defining our "lot," like the geographic boundaries of the portions of land allotted to the different tribes of Israel after the exodus.  Through the various seasons of my adult life, these verses from Psalm 16 have encouraged me with reassurance of God's sovereignty and challenged me to respond as the singer here does.

When this psalm first called my name, the fences most prominent in my mind were my unmarried status and the educational deficiencies to be overcome to meet my goal of theological seminary.  After I married A. in 1999, it felt like an open-range season of life as our missionary vocation suddenly expanded my boundaries to southeast and central Asia and perhaps even beyond.  When chronic illness entered our experience, the fences closed in again, and my world retracted significantly as we moved back to my hometown and even changed our place of worship because our previous, beloved church family was too far away for me to travel every week.  Through this most recent abrupt and severe change in circumstances, the psalmist's song again became my own.

It has encouraged me through all these seasons to remember what these verses teach about my boundaries and limitations.  Ultimately, my lot in life is not defined by my health.  The fences around my portion are not my neighborhood or the four walls of my house.  The LORD Himself, my Shepherd, is my hereditary portion  and my cup.  He is the one who assigns my lot and has every right to do so.

Because God and not my situation in life defines my limitations and freedoms, I can respond with David that it is pleasant and beautiful.  Even when I don't feel that way, by grace through faith I can choose to regard this unsought narrowing as green pasture and still water.  Much of daily worship is offering my body as a living sacrifice by discerning God's will to be good, acceptable, and perfect and accepting the pleasant and the difficult with joy.

This does not come naturally or easily.  Without God's transforming grace, my old self would lean over the boundary, staring at the other side, push against the gate to see if the latch gave, or see how far I could slide my leg underneath.  I might even try to tunnel through to the other side.  The current lupus flare has tested me afresh as opportunities with loved ones have been on the other side of the fence several times in the last month.  In a new way, the boundaries threatened relationships dear to me, and I needed to seek the same strength that prayed in the garden, "Not my will, but Yours be done."  Surrender is impossible apart from the Spirit of Christ in the believer, but it is also among the "all things" I can do through Christ in me (Phil. 4:13). 

Dear Crumble, your fences may be health limitations like mine, or they could be entirely different.  Perhaps the globe is your portion and your fences are your job or lack of one; marital troubles or marital status; a difficult child or the longing for any child at all.  Affliction is as individual as a fingerprint, yet God's loving sovereignty and our call to respond in joyful trust remain the same.  The Spirit's enabling, too, is accessible to every child of God.  May you seek and find the grace to make the psalmist's song your own today.  Amen.

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