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Painful Boundaries

Painful Boundaries

And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent.” Acts 18:6

When I relapsed for the third time, my wife had a painful decision to make. I’d gotten sober before. I’d been to outpatient treatment twice. Then, I’d relapsed yet again, losing my job, embarrassing my family, and destroying her trust. All she could see at that point was that she had a husband who was never really going to change. I can’t imagine how horrible it was, but she’d had enough, and appropriately informed me that she was done.

She didn’t throw down an ultimatum to force me to change. She didn’t promise that if I got help, she’d be there. She didn’t ask me to promise that things would be different. She’d heard all that before. She simply and appropriately said we were over. For her own protection, she created a boundary that began to separate her from that which was destroying her life. It’s not what she wanted, but it is what she had to do for the good of her and her children.

As Christians, we sometimes think that we should never give up on anyone. When someone is absolutely committed to destruction though, there are times when we must disengage ourselves so we aren’t dragged down with them. This is what happened to Paul in today’s passage. In the story, Paul preached the gospel at the synagogue in Corinth, until the local Jews attacked him, rejecting not just Paul, but Christ.

Paul didn’t stay, begging and pleading with them. Instead, he simply separated himself from those bent on self-destruction. Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. He’d done what he could and recognizing he could do no more, he walked away.

As difficult as this is, it’s exactly what we must do at times. The closer the relationship is of course, the more traumatic it is. When it’s a husband who is unwilling to change, boundaries may mean leaving.

The purpose of boundaries is to protect us from the destruction of others, but in my case, it’s also exactly what I needed. I needed to understand that I couldn’t keep my marriage and my drug use. Fortunately, my wife did eventually allow me time to change and fortunately, I changed. In my recovery, we now have a happy, healthy marriage. For both of us, though it was terribly painful, boundaries were absolutely necessary.

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