Freedom Within Boundaries

Steve Arterburn

In my years of working with men, I’ve seen how the lack of solid boundaries results in half-completed spiritual lives. Guys, good boundaries help you finish the course. They clarify convictions. They provide moral clarity by assigning healthy, predetermined responses to situations before they arise. They draw lines in the sand that you won’t cross because of your love for Christ and your desire to see His desires actualized in all areas of your life.

Establishing boundaries is a discipline. To this end, Oswald Chambers once commented, ‘Impulse is all right in a child, but it is disastrous in a man. Impulse has to be trained into intuition by discipline.’

The paradox is that the things men tend to resist the most’limits, boundaries, rules, and restrictions’are the very things you need the most in order to experience real freedom. This kind of resistance is like trying to jump the fence without realizing that the Grand Canyon waits on the other side. You won’t ever know the terrors you’ve escaped when you find true freedom inside God’s boundaries. But then again, you don’t want to know these terrors.

When you understand that true freedom requires restraints, you’ll see that God doesn’t establish boundaries just to see if you can be a good boy and follow the rules. Instead, He gives you boundaries to keep you and your loved ones safe from moral and spiritual calamity’to make you a faithful husband, dad, and man of God. He put them there to help you experience the truly abundant life Jesus came to give.

New Career Directions

Steve Arterburn

If you’re a man feeling disappointed with you career accomplishments, you should prayerfully and carefully consider the reasons. God’s image isn’t best reflected in a man tarnished by frustration and discontentment. Some reasons for disappointment could be carnal, like the desire to be rich’to boost one’s ego or status. If that’s the case, a Christ-centered value system will relieve some of your disappointment.

Yet other disappointments could be both legitimate and addressable. Many men enter careers for the wrong reasons. Their parents may have adversely influenced them. They may have begun a career because they didn’t know what else to pursue. They may have lacked financial opportunity to get the training necessary for the career they really desired. Or they may simply have had a ‘eureka!’ experience at mid-life and discovered a calling previously unknown to them. In such cases, a career change, if possible, could be a completely legitimate pursuit.

Some disappointments can be resolved by adjusting expectations that were unreasonable or illegitimate all along. However, lowering the bar on a legitimate expectation isn’t a path to fulfillment. Far better to put steps in motion to achieve what’ll bring fulfillment than work another two or three decades in disappointment.

The challenge is making changes at mid-life. If you’re able to switch careers or make adjustments, great. If you’re constrained by obligations you can’t move, the process will be longer. It’ll require patience and creativity. But escaping disappointment and fulfilling your calling will make it worthwhile.

Parental Acceptance

Steve Arterburn

Acceptance. We long for it, don’t we? If a young man or woman doesn’t sense, or hopefully know, they’ve been accepted by their parents’and most importantly, their father’the cloud of parental expectation will hang over their head. Children who don’t experience their parents’ acceptance have a terribly difficult time with self-acceptance.

 

Sons and daughters listens for his father’s words: ‘You’re good at that’you’re a wonderful son’I’m proud of you’I love who you are’I have confidence in your abilities.’ If he doesn’t hear them, he’ll eventually grow up and leave home without closure and without confidence he’s ready and capable to handle life.

 

Furthermore, the logic of his mind will say, ‘There must be something I haven’t done right, so I’ll keep trying; I’ll work at proving I can get it right. I’ll keep at it until I hear that I’m okay’that I’m a man.’

 

That’s how the majority of men in our culture leave home. And it’s tragic when you consider how this repeats itself from generation to generation. Only a man who hears from his father he’s accepted is free to pass this gift on to his own sons. You simply can’t give what you don’t have.

 

If you haven’t received this gift, there’s still hope for you. In Christ, you have a heavenly Father who accepts you’who truly delights in you. Seek Him. Hear His promises to you in Scripture. Let Him re-parent you.