Warm Spring days bring Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to our humble abode in the woods. They arrive by the dozens, and they consume nectar by the gallons! No exaggeration here, we go through at least a quart of sugar water each day. (Hummers need their calories!) We brew our own nectar to keep up with the demand: 1 part sugar, 4 parts water, brought to a boil for two minutes to kill bacteria harmful to the little fellas; and then cooled to room temperature before serving. (Just another recipe for hungry guests at Woodhaven.)
Trouble is, it’s not just the hummingbirds that crave sweet stuff. There are thousands of greedy ants — actually, hundreds of thousands — in the surrounding woods, and they apparently have radar tuned to the aroma of nectar bubbling on the range. These industrious pests will climb a two-story brick wall and work their way through the tiniest crack in a window to get their share, too. And although we scrupulously clean our kitchen counters of every single drop of hummingbird syrup, somehow the ants know that we’re constantly preparing the stuff inside; and they never stop trying to get in.
Imagine the trouble they could make, the hassle of getting rid of them, the loss of our peace of mind … only they AIN’T getting in. They make it up the brick, to the windowsill, but aren’t able to trespass any further, because we periodically spray along the base of the window with ant poison. (Hey, we all have to go sometime.)
The ant spray lays down a line of chemicals these pesky intruders can’t cross. We essentially put up an invisible boundary that tells the ants “This far, and no further!” It’s like an insect News Flash: no, you can’t come into our kitchen and take over!
Ants are vital to the balance of God’s ecology. They control other pests, carry seed, and create healthy soil. But they have no business invading your home. And know what? Sometimes people behave just like ants!
They have immense value, but they often try and work their way into areas of our lives where they have no business being!
Do you have any “ants” in your life? People who want to intrude and take over? If you do, have you considered establishing some boundaries? We’re not saying people are pests. But they can be pesky at times. And greedy and intrusive and troublesome and hard to get rid of. And they can steal your peace if you allow it. Just saying.
We love people, and we hope you do, too. We also enjoy encouraging and helping them when they need it; but people (until they allow God to FULLY work in their lives and transform them) tend to be selfish and self-centered. If allowed to, some will try to hog your time, abuse your willingness to help and serve, invade your privacy, manipulate your emotions, exploit your gifts — basically control your life! But people, like ants, are a fact of life. Ya just gotta learn how to deal with them. That means setting boundaries. In other words, drawing invisible lines in our lives that say “this far and no further”!
Yes, we are commanded to “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NLT) However, God NEVER intended us to allow others to control us! Just as the problem of beneficial ants is answered with BALANCE, so too is the issue of dealing with people. Balance is key: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 ESV)
Christian authors Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend explain in their book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, “Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what is not.”
We always want to be loving, accepting and helpful, but there are some problems we can’t fix, some needs we cannot or should not meet. And even when we can help solve things, we need to remember that we’re only human and that our time and resources, as well as our physical and emotional energies, are limited. So every time we say YES to something,
we’re automatically saying NO to something else. We also need to learn how to distinguish between people’s “needs” and “desires”! And we need to develop the confidence to JUST SAY NO!
If we fail to set boundaries, someone will always have us jumping at their every whim and cry, and we’ll end up constantly stressed out and frustrated with life. Eventually, we burn out! People, whether unintentionally or not, can keep us from achieving our own everyday goals and, ultimately, fulfilling our dreams. If we fail to set some boundaries, people can even keep us from doing the work God wants us to do! So, drawing the line is not being selfish. To the contrary, the “…Goal of learning boundaries is to free us up to protect, nurture and develop the lives God has given us stewardship over.” (Boundaries, p. 285)
Stop letting people constantly bug you! Stop allowing them to invade places in your lives where they have no business. Stop letting them eat up all your time and energy. Jesus said, “…You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 ESV) Let us “spray”!