Boundaries, Cellular Membranes, and Failed Burger Ideas

A certain fast food chain, many years ago, advertised a burged which kept the cool side cool, and the hot side hot. I guess this is because nasty, wilted lettuce is better when it sits in styrofoam, isolated from the burger that is going to eventually warm it up anyway.

This ad campaign is on my mind tonight, for what is maybe the most ridiculously, patently obvious reason you’re going to hear all day. The observation I want to make is that there are two, roughly equally important claims going on– #1) the hot part is supposed to stay hot. #2) The cool part is supposed to stay cool.McDLT_Packaging
Today, Pastor Marty was preaching about the importance of healthy boundaries. And he said some things that I find kind of interesting. It’s not that I’ve never heard these things are true. It’s just that I’ve never much thought about them in terms of healthy boundaries.
Among other things, Marty talked about how, if we call ourselves Christians, loving on others is non-negotiable. Our boundaries can not be impenetrable. We have an obligation to let things out. He also focused on the scriptural expectation that we guard our hearts. Our boundaries can not be so insubstantial that we just let anything in to impact us.
It would be easy if this were a case of just finding a happy medium. If we just had to find the right balance between rigidity and permeabality, we could figure out where that place is, and just go there, be that, mantain that level.
But we have to guard against even the most mild assaults. We have to be prepared to let even small acts of love out.
It occurs to me that what we need is a cellular membrane. Cells need to allow certain things out. They need to keep other things in. They need to protect the vulnerable organelles from attacks from the outside. And yet they need to be able to transport other substances to other areas.
Scientists call this state semi-permeable. It is not a happy medium, really, between fully permeable (basically non-existent) and utterly impenetrable. It is an amazing system designed with special avenues of escape for that which needs to be shipped out and entry ways for that which needs to come in.
Our boundaries need to be like this. They need to allow what is good in. They need to resist what is bad.
This is not all of the story. Though. There is this contradictory truth I hold in tension with the one stated above. I think sometimes we are called on to bring dangerous things inside us. If we were on some bad space opera, we’d be dropping our force shield to allow the enemies in. Though we are most exposed, here, we also are at our most powerful.
I have been meditating on what it means to be Christlike, recently. I’ve been on this exploration of how Jesus won. And he won by losing. He experienced victory through defeat. He brought evil into him, knowingly, and intentionally, where he could transform it.

After a time of building up our boundaries, increasing our maturity, deepening our intimacy with God, I think we are called to drop them, sometimes. We are called to making a knowing and informed decision to have damage done to ourselves. We are called to fully suffer with our brothers and sisters.
This experience, which I have begun to call “undercoming” doesn’t need to fly in the face of the instruction that we guard our hearts. In fact, it it really emphasizes the importance of this. We must guard our hearts so that we have saved them for the fights that really matter. We must guard our hearts and also know that they are powerful, profound things, unbeatable in Christ.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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