Saturday, May 28, 2016

Boundaries

“Set boundary lines…” Exodus 19:12a

Are you the type of woman who sees a need a mile away and rushes to take care of it? You do not waste any time gathering together whatever is required to meet the need and may even enlist people from your church to join you. You are tender hearted, generous, and kind. Some women can not say “yes” to a plea. That is not your problem. You can not say “no”. But…it does not take long until you feel used, over extended or perhaps trapped. Then resentfulness creeps in. You have not set realistic boundaries around your kind heart. As a result your Muslim friend will come to expect you to meet her every need of child care, transportation, errand shopping, being a bank, learning how to drive, getting a relative sponsored, etc. If this sounds like you then this post is meant for you. Setting boundaries is essential in Muslim ministry. They are for our well-being and will keep us going long term.

Monica, a Christian lady, asked me if I would be willing to meet a Muslim lady who was in a desperate situation. When she inquired what she should do about so many people needing her help I began to see something was not right about Monica's plea for help and declined to get involved. Monica desired to help every needy person but was not able to say no. There was a high level of guilt, compulsiveness, and pressure in responding to their needs. If only Monica could understand what her part should be or if she was being called by God to meet any part. 

The vast majority of Muslims I know are not demanding about their needs but occasionally there are certain ones who have too high expectations of me and an endless list of requests.  Sometimes I reason within myself that if I do not help them I will forfeit an opportunity to share spiritually with them. Some have material needs, while others are emotionally needy and lonely. Fortunately some churches offer good quality gently used clothing or furniture, food banks, and computer or English classes. Frequently there are immigration programs which do a superb job offering a myriad of services to meet the needs of Muslims who are newcomers. Many times Muslims can get help from the mosque or their community. So, the first thing we need to understand is that we do not have to meet every need personally. We can direct our friend’s attention to the services which are available. There will be occasions when we can personally get involved but we do not need to shoulder the entire responsibility alone. I ask God what my part should be. When we do get involved we should proceed wisely and implement boundaries; preferably before very much involvement takes place. It is difficult to implement boundaries after all the requests come. Think carefully about the part God wants you to play. If you do not know ask the Spirit to show you.  Boundaries bring a sense of order and peace and will keep us going long term in ministry. One reason there is a high attrition rate in ministry is because of burn out due to not implementing boundaries.

Yes, God will show us clearly who to help - when to help - and how much to help. There will be an accompanying spirit of freedom and joy – not guilt or pressure.

Dear heavenly Father, please help a sister reading this who is trying so hard to help a Muslim friend, to be free of guilt or pressure. Help her to clearly understand what her part is. In Jesus’ name, Amen.