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Setting the Perimeter

by John Bishop, Director of Spiritual Formation 

Growing up in New York, snowball fights were an all-day event. We would scope out the best place in the yard, the deepest snow drifts, the best cover, and then we would set our perimeters.

“You’re not allowed to go past the big rock,” I would shout to my brother who was busy piling snow into a bunker-like wall.

“You have to stay on that side of the driveway,” he would shout back as I packed extra snowballs and placed them in the crook of a tree. “If you don’t,” he would add, “I get a free throw,” upping the ante.  

These were not mere snowball fights; they were complex military campaigns wherein you were at risk from all sides. In that volatile and tenuous situation, it was imperative that you set the perimeter. Physical boundaries. Rules of engagement. Clear alliances (though these were often abandoned without preamble). 
What a clear analogy for life in general. Consider Valentine’s Day! This is not a game you can play without respecting certain rules. Try to ignore your partner on this day and see if they don’t cry foul. There are rules for engagement that we break at great risk. 

As kids playing in the snow, we understood that the game was best played with rules. With those rules, it was fun. Conversely, if my brother walked up behind me and pelted me on the back of the head with a snowball without warning, a war of a different sort would start. No rules, no boundaries, just chaos. These fights would usually end when someone (ahem…me) started crying.  

One such experience unfolded after we’d been sledding. One snowball flew, then another. Before anyone laid any rules or set any boundaries chaos was reigning. Well, technically, it was snowballs raining down, most of them on me. I grabbed a plastic sled to use as a shield and began advancing, gathering a few snowballs as I went. Then there was a brief lull. I heard a strange grunting noise. I peered around the sled in time to see Nate heaving a frozen block of snow about the size of a basketball. It arched in slow motion across the fifteen feet that separated us and slammed against my sled-shield. 

When I got home from the emergency room later that night, I made sure to prance through the house with my cast clearly visible attempting to make my boundary-less snowball assassin feel guilty!  

He didn’t. 

C. S. Lewis described a scene where a school’s playground was on the roof of a three-story building in London. The roof was lined with a chain-link fence to keep kids from falling off the building. As he walked by, he was often accosted by kids leering and shouting from above as they leaned against the fence to taunt those passing below. He used this scene as an analogy to describe the value of the boundaries God has established through his law. “Imagine,” he said, “There was no fence around the perimeter of the roof. The children would not be leaning over the edge of the roof, leering at passersbys. Instead, they would be huddled more safely toward the middle of the roof.” In other words, the boundary provided maximum freedom not restriction. There is no freedom to be gained from falling three stories to injury or death. 

In Galatians 5:13 we read, “ You, my brothers, and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” We must decide to trust the wisdom of God’s boundaries in our lives. We must be willing to accept and set healthy perimeters in our lives. 

As we head out to ski for winter break or celebrate Valentine’s Day consider the boundaries God has put in place for our actions and relationships. God is good, so we can trust that the limits He has established are good too. Set the perimeters, make the snowballs, or write up the Valentine’s card and then live your life to the full! 
Westminster Christian School, located in Palmetto Bay, Florida, is a private, college-preparatory school for children from preschool through twelfth grade.