Returning to Relationships
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
It was mid-May, and there I sat, crying among the many suitcases that needed to be packed. I had a hurricane of emotions swirling inside of me. I was sad it was over and that it was time to say goodbye; yet, I was excited to embrace all of those I had missed so desperately. I had reservations about returning to a family that didn’t understand our lifestyle. I wasn’t looking forward to the questions, the accusations, the assumptions, or the expectations. I cried, I laughed and I cried some more. Transition and change are hard, yet they are the one thing we can consistently count on. Throughout life, we face many transitions; but leaving and coming home, is one we know all too well and it affects every aspect of our lives, especially our relationships.
Let’s be honest, we don’t lead “regular” lives. We spend our lives split between a couple or even several countries each year. Our heart is never in one place, but many. We are exposed to so many ideas, cultures, and foods that most people can only dream of. While on one hand, it makes us relatable, it also causes us to seem unfamiliar within our relationships back home. Relationships are difficult to have and to maintain, especially when you are absent for so much. This makes it easy for you and others to grow bitter and resentful having missed important milestones in one another’s lives. Absence might make the heart grow fonder, but it also makes it weary. Upon our return home we were bombarded with expectations of time spent with family, friends, and attending events. Before we even made it home, it felt as though our “time off” was already gone. Have you been there sweet sisters?
I quickly learned the importance of boundaries. I once read that, “Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden” (Lydia H. Hall). We need to set boundaries to protect our “time off” and our relationships, despite that family and friends may feel as though we just returned from a nine-month vacation and “deserved” time with us. They failed to realize this was our only break in the year too and we want to relax. This was even more important when we had just spent nine months apart as children came into the picture.
Boundaries keep people and relationships healthy, even Jesus saw the importance of boundaries. He selected a small group of men to pour himself into not an abundance, He would often take time away to be alone with God, He took time to rest and encouraged His disciples to do the same (Matt 4:6-7; 26:18, 20; John 12:2), He didn’t always say yes, in fact, he often said no-and showed no signs of guilt. He didn’t feel guilty pulling away from overbearing crowds (Luke 5:15-16). He didn’t give in to his mother and brothers who tried to use their relationship with him to pull him away from crowds while he was ministering (Matthew 12:46-50). Jesus lived a perfect life of balance, He was never burnt out because he understood the importance of boundaries, and we should too.
So, as you prepare to come home – or your significant other prepares to come home – be ready to set boundaries to protect your heart and your relationship with your spouse and children if you have them. Like Jesus experienced, your family and friends may feel a sense of entitlement to your time, they may say hurtful things to manipulate situations. Not setting boundaries, will allow family and friends to pit you and your significant other against one another. Before you arrive home, be sure to be on one accord with your spouse. Discuss things you want to do and the things you don’t want to do – decide what boundaries you will set, and stand firm in them.
Boundaries are not unloving. Separating ourselves protects our relationships because we are taking a stand against things that destroy them.
Lord, thank you for change, thank you for offering a life where we are to depend on You. Thank you for having our future in your hands. Help us to set our eyes on you in the midst of transition and change, knowing that you are an unchanging God. We love you, Daddy! Amen.