Day Three: Setting Boundaries (Don’t Throw the Ball Back)
My mom was a sun-up, sun-down, vodka drinking alcoholic, and I hated her for it and wanted nothing to do with her. But I also desperately wanted a mom. This push-pull in my heart, the hate and the longing, contributed to our unhealthy relationship rhythm. I wanted out and in at the same time. God called me to stay in, and not just to stay in, but to forgive her and love her. How was I going to do that?
Enter a bald man with a black leather jacket, an addiction counselor, that taught me a concept that changed the game for me—after all, my interaction with my mom was a game, I just didn’t know it.
“Don’t throw the ball back” the bald man said.
I scrunched my face at him. “Huh?”
“If I have a ball in my hand and I throw it to you, are you going to catch it?”
“Yea, I guess.”
“Okay,” he said, “Well, you made that choice; you caught the ball. Now you have another choice to make: you can hold the ball, drop the ball, or throw the ball back.”
On and on, back and forth, a seemingly never-ending game; our rhythm.
“If you don’t want to play the game anymore, stop throwing the ball back.”
It was right then and there that I learned about boundaries, what I would and would not tolerate when it came to my mother, and how this boundary setting might save our relationship…and my sanity.
I also discovered that the ultimate reason we set boundaries is so we can love others better.
As Christians, we are called to love, even when it hurts, but often we get stuck in unhealthy patterns with others that hinder our ability to really love; we know we should love, but how on earth do you do that when the person you’re supposed to love is toxic to you? One of the ways we love difficult people is to set boundaries.
In order to love my alcoholic mother, I needed to get out of our unhealthy rhythms so I could get my head straight. And once I was able to finally stand secure in Christ’s love, protection, and truth, I was able continue a relationship with her within rhythms that were much healthier.
I did love her in the end, because God showed me how. And when she passed into the arms of Jesus, I was with her, praising God for the impossible restoration he had given us both.
Key Application: Ask God who you might need to set a boundary with, and how to go about setting it in wisdom and love.