Sunday, February 25, 2018

Boundaries and Lines

I've been thinking recently about boundaries--walls, barriers, hedges, and so on--of all kinds. Some are good, in that they keep us safe--from wandering or falling into places we ought not to be, whether it is a canal or quicksand or a tiger's cage (take that literally or metaphorically, as you wish). We clergy are taught in seminary to keep those barriers up and strong--between us and our congregation, between us and our mentors, between us and the people we may walk with as counselors, even between us and our colleagues of different denominations.

For the most part, these barriers, these boundaries are a Good Thing. They do keep us--and the others--safe.  With these hedges of protection, we don't get personally invested in our parishioners' home lives, our mentors don't direct our careers, and we aren't controlled by our colleague's theology, no matter how much we may admire them.

But sometimes...sometimes the walls can be so high we cannot see the person on the other side, only their head floating along above the foliage, assuring us that all is well.

Or is it?

Sometimes, I think, the boundaries--hedges, barriers--prevent us from really seeing each other. We see the head, the hat floating along, and think, "See, all is well. Music ministry is lovely, the choir sang so well at Christmas, all is well;" or "That couple always looks so happy, I envy them;" or "He is so contented being single, and keeps so busy." And, reassured, we keep on about our own lives. But we never really know. Perhaps the music director is doing well--but do we know?

It's a fine line here--ha, another boundary--between intrusion and care, and it varies between 
individuals. But I have noticed this over-boundarization, so to speak, as if we are afraid to risk--something. Do we fear the rejection--"No, I'm fine, you worry too much," or the anger--"Who told you anything was wrong?" Are we worried about causing others to examine things they otherwise wouldn't? Or is it the not wanting to be seen as the Pollyanna do-gooder? Maybe it's knowing that all too frequently, there's not much we can do even when we are asked to help.

I'm just musing here, really. I'm not issuing a call for action (or inaction, either). Just wondering why we do and don't do some of the things in our lives, especially as pastors.

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