I like this a lot, as a start to my week: it’s 9am at the time of writing, and I’m curled up in the lovely big armchair by the patio doors in our lovely home, tired but comfortable, allowing myself to wake up slowly with some breakfast and a cup of tea, and the sound of a little water fountain flowing just outside the window.
It’s tricky to know what to do with days like this, at the moment: I’ve recently started a new ministry position, which I am absolutely loving – but that role mainly covers Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and so Monday and Friday at the moment are just kind of… free. I’ve not been very good at having free time, historically – I bounce between feeling totally lazy, with that weight of guilt that I should be doing something or helping in some way, and then over-committing and over-promising, until I burn out.
But this has been the way that Monday has begun for a few weeks now, and it feels really good: I rolled out of bed at about 7:30, put my running gear on in the hope that I might go out at some point later today, and then I plodded downstairs and plonked myself here with my journals and my Bible, and some nice chilled worship music on in the background. I wonder if claiming Mondays as a retreat-y day, properly and intentionally taking the time to sit and be with God, working through whatever I need to work through and doing some processing with Him, is actually the best way to start my week.
But there’s a question – and it’s a question that we all chew over at some point: how do I put boundaries around this thing that I know is precious and important, so that it doesn’t get taken over by other things?
Boundaries: Structure, Reliability and the Knowledge of Something Solid
A book that I’m reading at the moment (The Growth of Love, by Keith White) has some really great things to say around boundaries. Keith, a children’s worker and general ledgend, talks about how good boundaries with children might well be less about rules and borders and goalposts (although these things can be important), and more about rhythms that are sustainable and predictable:
”What does the concept of boundaries include? Some have suggested disciplines – rules and regulations as alternatives – but my intention is to include but go beyond these suggestions: [I hope to cover] predictability, patterns of life and routines. There is an underlying sense of structure, reliability and the knowledge of something solid and firm inherent in the nature of what we mean by boundaries. They are not a wish list for an ideal world, but the grounds of practical living and experience”.
There’s something really helpful in there about boundaries in our own time and headspace. It is about having discipline and rules, but this idea of boundaries goes way beyond that. The idea of putting boundaries in around our time and attention is more about predictability, patterns of life and routines. It’s not about, as Keith points out in the book, a wish list for an ideal life that we might someday live, but grounds for practical living and experience that we can get on with today.
So, I wonder if putting boundaries in place is less about thinking through how we would like to assign our time in an ideal situation and putting in rules and regulations to help us achieve this – and more about getting on with it, living life and finding rhythms that are sustainable and predictable along the way.
What Does That Look Like?
Get into the Word at the start of the day – not because that is the time that you’ve assigned to it, it because you need God before all else – and leave your phone on the kitchen table during this time. People will get the message soon enough.
Make it clear when you are showing up to work and be completely present and available during that time: somewhere along the road, work will be come a sustainable and predictable part of your time and your headspace.
Rest when you rest, and don’t get sucked into the guilt and the shame that tells you that you should be doing something else. Instead, let rest and calm and solitude become as much a part of that sustainable rhythm as anything else – and I wonder if you’ll stop needing to burn out and crash because you’ve been giving all of your time and your attention so freely to everything else.
I don’t have all the answers here, and I’m definitely not the expert – but let’s work it out together. A timely reminder from my devotional this morning:
O Lord, you have examined my heart, and you know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up; you know my thoughts, even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything that I do.