Dear Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend,
I recently read your book, the original Boundaries. It was recommended to me by a friend who loves me well. I agreed with her about my need to learn to say ‘no,’ so I read your book.
In the first chapter, I saw myself in so clearly in Sherrie that it wasn’t funny. Certainly, the situations were different; I’m single and without children, my job and ministry life and family are essentially inseparable. But every time someone approached Sherrie for a favor during the day, I became uneasy, knowing that I was about to read the battle that occurs so frequently in my own mind – and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
What I’m trying to say is that you so accurately captured my struggles.
Boundaries is also very practical. It equips me with concrete, actionable steps. Since reading it, I’ve approached decisions differently. Contrary to what I might have thought, it’s freed me up to want to say yes more frequently. It’s made my ‘yes’ genuine just to be mindful that it’s a gift I get to choose to give. A choice is a joy and a privilege.
On many occasions, I’ve found myself arguing with this complex philosophy you call ‘boundaries.’ Despite seeing my need for change, I resisted the principles. They challenged my thinking. But my thinking isn’t Scripture, after all, and I think it’s good that it was challenged. In the end, you changed my mind about a lot of things.
There remain a few points, though, that I still disagree with. I’m not going to lay them all out here, but simply share with you the one that is closest to my heart. Though something rubbed me wrong, I couldn’t put my finger on it. I scanned back over pages I’d already read trying to pinpoint my issue with your writing. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I’m practicing boundaries when I acknowledge that your writing is your responsibility but my response to it is mine.)
I think my issue lies not in anything you explicitly proposed, but in the way you proposed it, thus no quote is sufficient to do it justice. Nonetheless, I feel… (Oh, perhaps you can help me name a feeling in keeping with your teaching to take responsibility for my feelings. I haven’t gotten the hang of that part, yet.) I don’t know how I feel, but it’s definitely a disturbing feeling, that you seem to suggest that God can be defined and explained so completely.
I get that He defines Himself (in part) – what He thinks, feels, plans, allows, likes, and dislikes, as you say in chapter 2 – through His Word, the Bible. And I get that He distinguishes Himself from anything else in creation. That’s what it means for Him to be holy. In that sense, I get that God has boundaries.
But on the other hand (you knew a ‘but’ was coming), I just believe there are limits to what the Lord communicates to us about Himself. He’s utterly indescribable. There’s only so much we can know about Him.
Therein lies my problem. I can’t speak about your intentions, but when I read your book, I got the impression that you implied boundaries as the foolproof explanation to God and life. It would honor and exalt God, I think, to contemplate His eternality. Let me wonder at the indescribable Person who is the Lord. Let me gaze upon that which He reveals to me of Himself, then let me stand speechless as I consider that He extends beyond all comprehension. Let me worship; don’t reduce it to something I can understand. Let me worship!
Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend, if you’re reading this, can you help me understand the relationship between the eternality of an infinite God and boundaries? And if you’ve read this far, thank you for your time. That is, thank you for choosing to give it to me.