This morning we are having vinyl flooring installed in another room of our house. I’m giving up on rugs in the home. Primarily because of a male cat who is powered by some hormone-driven urge to urinate in special areas of rugs. I am blessed with an especially keen sense of smell. I am also aware of home-buying trends.
This cat is now operating on the “three strikes” rule. (Yes, he recently had a checkup by a veterinarian). I have very little patience with the reality of a pet who ruins my house. And we have already suffered the results of young cat mischief and cat-claw sharpening. It’s a two-year story thus far but I have my limits. I have lived long enough and had numerous cats to have expectations for cat behaviors. One tiger cat may soon be seeking a new home, preferably on a farm.
While I was getting ready for the flooring installers to arrive, I noticed a Voicemail message on my phone from yesterday. I listened to a woman who wanted to join an intimate-partner violence survivor support group. Unfortunately, I had closed my support group a year ago after 12 years of facilitating. So with some regrets I returned her call, made a suggestion for resources, and prayed with the woman. After 10 years of separation, this woman has suffered much abuse and is preparing to divorce. She needs to be safe and seeks support for a difficult adjustment. She is ready to give up on a relationship and move on with her life.
I have had to give up on pets and people over the years of my life. And the process is usually difficult. I will never forget most of those “give ups.” Thirty years ago I gave up on a fear-biting Scottish Terrier we owned after she had bitten a neighbor child and most of our family members. A few years after that I gave up on a Saint Bernard that was difficult to train, had bad habits, plus a health problem. We returned her to her original owners for re-homing. Yet I thought of her and hoped she had a peaceful rest of her life. We went on to love other pets.
I have also given up on some people. After much time and money spent, the constant complaining and other-blaming ended one such attempt to support a person. And I recently referred a woman to other therapists after I had her as a client for six years. She seemed to be making no progress in necessary changes for a healthy life. I was drained in our relationship and needed to protect my own health. One of my mentors reminded me that “some people never get well.” A sad truth for living in our sin-infected world. Someone else may be able to encourage and motivate where I left off?
I believe that Jesus teaches us to extend our forgiveness many, many times as a reflection of a gracious God. I also believe and teach that we serve a God who has given us boundaries for our relationships and best health. The 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) are a good illustration of boundaries. The Sabbath is a boundary in time and worship. Even the human body has boundaries=skin! I own doors on my house and a fence around my yard. I don’t allow people to say anything they wish to me—or continue saying it. In my stewardship (personal skills and God-given resources), I cannot afford to expend all of me with someone who has few healthy reciprocal interactions. Even Jesus reminded his disciples that sometimes they would have to “shake the dust off their feet and move on” (Matthew 10:14) when their message was not accepted in a certain town. The whole world needs love, not just one personal project.
I am not advocating for divorce, leaving your church, job, or dumping friends. However, sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to do much more than continue praying and spending money when a relationship “stinks.” Or before you get bitten.
Questions about personal journaling and discussion:
1. Can you think of other biblical examples of boundaries of time, space, speech, property, or body?
2. Is there a relationship (human or otherwise) that you need to give up for your own health or sanity?
Karen Spruill writes from Orlando, Florida.
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