Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Boundaries That Promote Freedom

"But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does." James 1:25

A number of years ago I read a story about a school where the administrators determined that the fence around the playground was too limiting to the children. It was a hindrance to their freedom. They were confined and closed in.  So they had the fence removed. To their surprise, the children afterward voluntarily played in a much smaller area than what had originally been allowed by the fence. They suddenly had no boundary and weren't able to figure out how to limit themselves, so they stuck together in the center of the playground for the sake of safety. Also, the new arrangement no longer prevented the outside world, with its animals and strangers, from getting in.

The lesson here is that the fence, properly placed, actually promoted freedom for the children. They could play right up to the fence without facing danger. The playground was large enough for them to play in comfortably, and the fence kept them in and strangers out. This is how God's law works. He provides the proper boundaries for us to promote our maximum freedom. Another example of this would be the barrier on the observation deck of the Empire State Building or the railing at the rim of the Grand Canyon. People can go right to the edge and even lean against the boundary because the boundary was engineered and constructed to allow leaning against it. Now imagine these railings suddenly being removed. How many people would venture to the edge of the top floor and look down? Far fewer than with a boundary.

An opposite example would be Hal, the super computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hal arranged for Dave, the astronaut, to float out into space in order to take control of things himself. Dave was now free of any and every obligation to family, country, mother-in-law. He was even free from the law of gravity. But he was doomed to death because of his limitless freedom. God's law allows us freedom to live within his creation, but prevents us from killing ourselves.


  1. This reminded me of something that happened when I was a child. When my siblings and I were snacking on cookies, store-bought or homemade, she would tell us how many we each could have. The number was usually three.

    One time a babysitter was staying with us. When it was snack time, we asked her how many cookies we could eat. She shrugged, and after being pressed for an answer, told us we could eat the whole package.

    We looked at it in confusion and disbelief, unsure as to what to do. We were comfortable with a rule, but didn't know what to do when given free reign.

    At some point, we decided to eat every single one, and soon regretted it when the bellyaches came on. The strange thing is how we blamed our babysitter for not setting a cookie limit. We even taught our littlest sister a new word: "irresponsible"!

  2. In regards to the cookie comment: In our home I decided that instead of telling the children, they could only have x amt. of cookies, I said they could have what they were hungry for. I found some took 2, others took six, but each is learning to take what they are hungry for. I adjust that rule sometimes for youngest two in the family, as they are still learning, but in general it works very well, and when I am not around, they still don't gorge themselves on snacks. I've found that when the children have friends over who are not used to such rules, some children do fine, and other children I have to step in and stop. I bet the siblings in this situation learned a great lesson, one that was worth the bellyache. :)
    I think boundaries are a good idea, but as with everything, in balance. Helping a child learn how to set self boundaries in some areas helps them mature. I've also found that each child can be different, and in my own family, one child can handle self control at a younger age better than another. It is part of their personality - how God wired them. They can still learn self control. It's just going to take more guidance and time, and they probably have strengths in other areas.
    Daisy :)
    (My husband's blog and mine got accidentally linked. I'm at daisy crazy living dot blogspot dot com.)