Hazardous faith: Did Jesus have boundaries?

I missed Ed Cyzewski’s Hazardous Faith synchroblog last week, in part because of this post’s topic. But it’s a theme that’s been swirling around in my mind since I heard about it, and then it seemed to apply to everything, everywhere. Do you know how that goes? So even though I missed it and this is late, my heart needed to write it out. Thanks for grace.


“It’s like… I just don’t want any part of it,” he told me honestly, though he knew.

I get it, this impulse to push it away. This was messy, and it was too close to home, but what does that mean? That we crave safety, sure. That we want clean, that we desire “the best” for our family. But what is best? Is safety best? Security? Is that how we are to live?

Someone that I love, someone I’ve fought to love for years, was under the weight of the world that day. It was partly (mostly) his choices, but he’s also walking around with a hurt heart and hurt brain from his early days of survival and I doubt he knows where his motivations are born.

From my (safe) observation point, it’s classic attachment disorder. It’s what I’ve read about in my own adoptions. He’s a case study in how it manifests later — the lying, the charm and superficial attachment to many, the almost-impossibility of forming a lasting partnership, of really letting someone in, the impulse to destroy a good thing, the tendency to blame others.

It’s equal parts terrifying and depressing. My heart aches with compassion and quakes with fear.

He has gone through horrific pain and separation abuse from nearly everyone he should have been able to trust, and I think God has just asked of us, love him love him love him.

“But we are part of it,” I say. “We’re in it. Someone’s got to do it.”

* * *

Going to Africa to help and heal and listen to stories and write them out — that’s pretty safe. They need clean water; they need sterile birthing supplies; they need sustainable solutions. External poverty is complex in cause, but the needs are simple and straightforward.

When I think of the cost of following Christ to Africa, I know leaving my children and my work and my home is costing us something, I do. I’ll start to feel that sting soon.

But when I think of the cost of following Jesus in loving this young man, of helping him, of pouring into his life sacrificially, of helping him heal?

If I’m honest, I want to help him, but I don’t want it to cost me anything.

Africa is there. It costs money and time to go over there; it costs shreds of my heart that I’ll leave there. It’ll linger, but then it’ll be done in a way and I’ll be back to my normal life.

But him — he’s right here. How to give him grace when it feels unfair to my family? How to show him love when his choices roil anger and frustration and pain? How to help him when I see the same patterns over again, when it feels hopeless?

* * *

If it were just me, I would keep that relationship in a neat box, with permanent-marker lines. I would have all kinds of lines about boundaries and healthy emotional distance and loving but not enabling.

But then there’s a  woman who has long quietly showed me Christ, has always loved sacrificially. The way she loves me and others, it disturbs my “healthy distance” ideals.

Sometimes I want to tell her that she doesn’t have to do that, that she shouldn’t put herself on the line like that. For the young man with the choices, she agreed to be a buffer, to be a safe landing place for his most recent relationship that’s currently exploding in spectacular fashion. Beyond my concerns for her safety, I was also worried about her heart. I wanted to protect her from the mess. I was annoyed that she agreed to it.

In the end, she has a broken-in door in her basement and a traumatized heart.

Those results should show that I was right. But it’s not that simple when you look at her example: It’s not that simple when you look at Christ.

* * *

Did Jesus have boundaries?

He tried to get away for respite on his disciples’ boat, but weren’t they still there with him, always needing? When he asked for a break and the crowd still wanted him, didn’t he capitulate and keep giving giving giving?

Wouldn’t we call that enabling today? Wouldn’t we say that for his own emotional health, he should have sent them away? That space is good for  us, even if it means that others are going to have to wait?

He saw the crowd and he had compassion on them.

And I see I have so much to learn about how much my selfishness and desire for my own safety. I see how my talk of “boundaries” is really about maintaining a bubble of safety around me, around my family.

* * *

When we help people far away, it’s simple to have compassion on them, to give what we can, to see a need and donate, even give sacrificially.

But inviting people into our own lives? Exposing my children to their mess, trying to explain their brokenness in a way an 8-year-old or 6-year-old can understand? When I have to start thinking about their safety? That’s painful. That feels uncomfortable. That’s where I start counting how much this is costing me.

Helping others while insulating ourselves from their problems isn’t brave. Helping others by inviting them into our lives, by loving sacrificially and wrestling with them to understand, to help, to help heal? That’s Christ.

That’s where faith gets hazardous.


Check out Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus, by Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper. If you purchase before Sept. 9, you get a bundle of free e-books, too! Thanks for the prompt, Ed.


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12 comments on “Hazardous faith: Did Jesus have boundaries?

  1. ed cyzewski says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing so deeply from your own story. that is hazardous faith indeed! There is such a steep cost when we open our homes and personal lives to those who are wounded and who have the ability to wound us.

    • Thanks, Ed. When I get a little distance from this personal situation, it’s a theme I’d like to explore a little more. What does it mean to put it all on the line? How far are we called to go? Thanks for the great writing prompt, and for writing that book. Blessings!

  2. This — THIS — is one of the most confusing and awe-inspiring characteristics of Jesus that most of the time, I just can’t relate to because I don’t want to be inconvenienced like that. Jesus’s willingness to have it cost (everything!), the openness and yet sternness toward those sinning, and the perfect balance of truth and mercy is staggering.

    • Oh, I agree. When I actually read, in-depth, about Jesus, I get bewildered. There is so much there, such radical action and reaction. It’s timeless in its audacity, in its going-against-human-nature-ness.

      A balance of truth and mercy — yes. Thank you for this.Maybe that’s where the boundary comes in… but I don’t see Jesus ever purposefully putting distance between himself and others, especially in their messiness. Even in his dealings with the Pharisees, it’s all about love and rebuking to shock them into a new way of thinking.

  3. rachel says:

    this is so POWERFUL.

    He lived in the balance between too much and just enough. this is something i must study, must learn more about…because i tend to give and give and give until i just break and i have nothing more to give to even myself.

    is there a balance?

    • Thanks Rachel. Your question is a good one — because as a mother, I also get in that place of giving giving giving, and I KNOW that if I don’t also care for myself, I have nothing left to give to anyone. I don’t think he calls us to martyr ourselves, but what does it mean to go a little farther and let it cost us something, to live in that tension, the place of discomfort? It’s different for everyone, to be sure. I’m wrestling with it, too.

  4. Jenn says:

    You’ve given me a lot to think about…..it’s so easy to use boundaries as an excuse. I totally believe in their importance and giving from a place of overflow, certainly not in my own strength, but sometime boundaries can become wall.

    • That’s exactly my fear, Jennn. I set up all these boundaries and pretty soon I find myself boxed in, insulated. One can definitely take it too far. I love your thoughts about giving from overflow, and always with the knowledge that it’s really not ME who can do anything — it’s all His strength. Thank you. xo

  5. oh kim. i’m sharing this. i’m blown away by this. it’s exactly what i’ve been dealing with lately. it’s exactly what the book Radical has been teaching me. thank you. i LOVE your heart, friend. love the journey you’re on. xo

    • Oh, thank you sweet friend! I love that Jesus is asking us to explore the same questions. Thanks for sharing the post, and much love to you on the journey.

  6. this is powerful. hard. scary, even. you are asking such good questions – keep asking them. but also ask this one: did Jesus ever put the lives of others in danger? seems like he went out of his way to intervene – the soldier’s ear in the garden, the disciples who couldn’t overcome the power of evil on their own, even disappearing into the crowd when they came to throw him off the cliff. Jesus knew about timing-it was intrinsic to his entire ministry. and sometimes the time is not right for certain kinds of sacrifice. putting our children in jeopardy seems like one of those times. tough to know, isn’t it? the disciples were his children for those 3 years – that’s one way to look at it. and only when they were mature were they ready to put themselves in the line of fire for his sake. that came later… so when you have very young children in your care, their welfare has to go at the top of the list, don’t you think? or am I completely missing it here?

    • No, this is excellent, Diana. You make really great points about timing, and about putting others in danger.

      But is it true that he only asked them to put themselves in danger later? When they thought they would die in that storm, wasn’t he disappointed when they asked for his help and protection? When they feared for their lives during his trial and crucifixion, didn’t it grieve his heart to be denied, even though it came from a place of protecting one’s safety? I suppose Peter could have even said that he was protecting himself in order to spread the good news later… it’s just such a dangerous line to flirt with, do you know what I mean? It never seems black and white.

      You’re right that my kids have been entrusted into my care, but I’m sure you’ve also seen symptoms of overprotective parenting in our culture.

      I agree that it’s important to wrestle with this, and I so love your heart and your thoughts here. Blessings.