Boundaries that Make Us Free

Today is my 67th birthday. Looking back I realize how much life has changed. When I was younger, I did a lot of things I no longer do.

Life is so much better now.


I run in the path of your commands,

                  for you have set my heart free!          –  Psalm 119:32


There was time when it was believed among some education elites that children would learn better without boundaries, rules, or structure. The “open classroom” was an idea that despised the notion of an authority figure telling children what to do.

During this time the school board in one town decided that fences around the elementary school playground were too confining, and that the children needed to feel the freedom of an open area for their recesses.

When the fences were removed, the “experts” were surprised to find that the children tended to huddle in a space that was smaller than their original playground. Being unsure of the boundaries wasn’t making the children feel free, it was making them feel insecure. Not being sure just how far they were allowed to go to play, they stayed in the middle of the yard.

When the fence was returned, the children were back to playing right up to it, some of them leaning against the chain links, apparently feeling secure again.*

For all the world’s talk of freedom and the idea that everyone should be permitted to do what he or she pleases, there is something ingrained within us that knows that left on our own, we don’t always make the best choices. And in a world where no two people agree on everything, total “freedom” would result in utter chaos. Hence, we look for guidelines, boundaries, someone who is more experienced than we are who can advise us.

(Oh my. Did I just say we’re looking for an authority figure to tell us what to do??)

When you think of it, there are people who get paid money to do just that: fitness coaches, consultants, psychiatrists, dietitians, and teachers.

An adolescent may shout “Don’t tell me what to do!” one moment, and next moment, in a panic, whimper, “Mom, what should I do?” (Not that I would know this from personal experience…)

Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is a poem praising the virtues of the Law of the LORD. To some it might seem strange for someone to use words to describe the Law that are usually reserved for praising a lover or hero, or God Himself. But the writer of this Psalm was overcome with love for God’s law. (“I rejoice in following your statutes, as one who rejoices in great riches. … I delight in your decrees.”) Why such ardent devotion to and delight in old scrolls full of rules and regulations? Does anyone really love being told what to do that much?

It might help to imagine the opposite of structure and rules: a world where anything goes, and choices are infinite. I, for one, would be in a constant state of indecision. I would also be perpetually stressed out, second guessing myself at every turn. It would be the emotional equivalent to standing in quicksand or drifting in weightlessness with nothing to hold onto.

I’ve found that even living a “good” life there is such a thing as too many choices. How many things do I do simply “because I can”? How many times have I mentally clicked on “all of the above” when faced with a long list of possibilities?  How often have I looked back on a myriad of activities and not been able to remember truly enjoying any of them? And how often have I become burned out from trying to cram too many things into too little time?

As I have grown older – and, I hope, wiser – I have experienced some of the typical limitations, mainly the aches, pains, and stiffness from arthritis. For about twenty years of my life I ran about 4 miles every day, not really enjoying it but thinking it was good for me. Ironically, so much running in cheap shoes on hard surfaces depleted the cartilage in my knees. Bad knees began to limit my activities. I quit playing tennis, with its sudden stopping, starting, and turning, before I quit running. But eventually it became obvious that running was counterproductive, as well. I now have more hours in the day to do things that I enjoy more and, frankly, things I am better at.

Recently I was on my way to pick up my granddaughters from school, and as I drove through the park, I saw people playing tennis. I smiled and found myself thinking smugly, I don’t have to do that any more. I used to play tennis mainly because other people liked it and thought I should, too. (“It’s a beautiful day, you should be out there.”) I didn’t mind tennis for an hour or two a week, but to be honest, it wasn’t my “thing.” Hitting a tennis ball was something I did while thinking about things that were more important to me.

(Before I get too many comments regarding the benefits of exercise – three times a week I listen to audio books at the gym while I work out on the weight resistance and ellyptical machines. My husband and I walk, bike, and/or kayak together most days.  And  I’m enjoying exercise more more – the scenery is better, too.)

I’ve learned to take sickness more in stride, as well. The last few times I’ve been too sick to go out, too contagious to babysit the grandkids, and too hoarse even to “get things done” on the phone, I have been forced to stay home alone with God, and after connecting with Him, I ended up getting more writing done than I ever could on a “normal” day. Since writing is my passion, these limitations turned out to be a blessing.

I’m hoping that as I continue to grow wiser I’ll have the confidence and self-discipline to make good choices based on right priorities, and God won’t have to help me out by eliminating the wrong options Himself!

Prayer: Lord, we can be foolish, blind, and indecisive. We are like sheep needing boundaries in our lives, boundaries established by Someone who loves us. Thank You for being our Good Shepherd, and thank You that though we are prone to wander, we are never lost from You. Amen




51 thoughts on “Boundaries that Make Us Free

  1. I hope you’re having a good birthday! 🎉🙌
    I’m at a similar stage of life as you – at 66, and recently diagnosed with a lung condition, I don’t feel guilty anymore for not power walking everywhere. I enjoy my slower walks with the dogs much more now … running only ever gave me shin splints and I hate the thought of sweating through a game of tennis on a hot day! Writing does it for me too. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my, you just reminded me of a song I wrote when I was 42 and figured I was old enough to say “no” to stuff I didn’t enjoy. The name of the song is “I Don’t Want To, You Can’t Make Me, So I Won’t.” Hmm… maybe that’ll be my next post…
      I do hope your lung condition doesn’t keep you from enjoying life. I’m glad writing “does it” for you. You’re good at it.
      (I walk my dog every day, too, and it’s perfect for my prayer time. My phone stays at home, I’m moving and awake, and the dog thinks I’m talking to him. 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, that title sounds familiar! Are you a famous songwriter? 😁
        The condition is managed with strong drugs and regular scans, blood tests and breathing tests. I’m doing well as long as I pace myself. Thank God I’m still able to get out with my dogs. I love that your dog thinks your talking to him and that he plays a part in your prayers. 🐕💞

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Alan. As for the mobility thing, I’d just say, “Keep trying.” I was noticing that my knees felt better when we were in Florida, and wondered if it had to do with the fact that we rode bikes every day. (Either that or the hot tub. 😉 ) I love to walk or bike ride and pray. Do something you enjoy (VERY important), and as my dad used to say, “Keep moving – but don’t look back, they might be gaining on you!”

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  2. Happy Birthday Ann! Funny how every time I see that you’ve posted a post I figure I’m in for a treat and you never disappoint! I’ll be 75 in April so I can really identify with your “Things I Used to Do” list and you’re absolutely right, there is a certain amount of satisfaction there when you realize that you don’t have to do certain things anymore. Conversely, when you go to do something that you do like doing and find that doesn’t seem to work out as well anymore, that can be a bit of a shock. I tried riding a bike again last year and I found it actually hurt my rear end, that was a shocker but it’s possible that the seat needed “adjusting”. I totally agree with your thoughts on boundaries. There can be a bit of a crossover to “set in your ways” also but we’ll let that one go for the time being. Hope you have a blessed day and many more to come! God’s grace, peace and blessings to you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I pray you are having a wonderful birthday! With age comes wisdom to recognize what the Lord has for us is what’s best! In recent years, I have had to slow down my body way more than I would like, but I am learning those pockets of opportunity, even just to walk in my neighborhood or dance to some oldies around the house are things to take. I think it all comes down to what He’s gifted us with. In His joy, we find real freedom! Blessings to you today and in the year to come! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Boundaries and freedom, what a great dynamic we should all understand. I just interviewed a prospective employee and asked him how he felt about all our company rules in the work place. I loved his answer “They don’t bother me because I’m already obeying them anyway. That’s how I live my life.

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  5. Great article. Every illustration is so on point. I went through the free classroom stuff; we taught “freedom” but freedom to do what? I went to a college classroom first day, the prof. wasn’t even in front. Didn’t even introduce himself that I remember. We sat around wondering what to do. Finally decided it was up to us to organize something. Tried to get into groups, then decide what our objectives were. I guess we had some idea of what we were in the room for based on the class syllabus. One thing sure, I didn’t go back. Straight to withdrawal! I began teaching in the sixties, so we were not much involved in “open” classrooms, but one of their “reading” periods was to be left open for the child to choose what to do. If he choose dump trucks in the sandbox, fine. And if he chose to dump a load on someone’s head, the teacher could tell him that was out of boundaries. However to do that, she would have to leave the “teaching” group. So it was easier to ignore. I’m not to hot about letting children (or adults) set their own boundaries. Such will show up in the drug laws if the Dems win. Am I going too far? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good post. Where to start! I’ve started minor exercising a year ago and I’m at a better place than when I wasn’t doing anything; yet I feel better than in my 20s when I was in the Marines doing things that maybe was too crazy physically. Boundaries; balance; wisdom. Thanks for this post!


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