The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
I hear the Lord saying: “At present, you are more like a water spigot than a fountain. You are connected to your Source and can access My power, but you enjoy the ability to turn on or off the water at your own good pleasure. I would rather you be a fountain flowing continuously, not a spigot flowing sporadically. For this, you will need to yield full control to Me.”
We hear much from leaders today about setting limits and boundaries; guarding our hearts from what is toxic; and carving out regular time to replenish ourselves. The Sabbath has come back in vogue, with many people realizing that the fast pace of life cannot be sustained at length without serious consequences to our well-being. In short, we are more aware of what taxes us and less willing to give up our rights to free time, me time, and down time.
This is not all bad. Those of us who have faced extremely stressful situations at work, debilitating diseases, abuse in the home, or drivenness in ourselves must learn, at first, who we are, what we need, and how to find a healthier way of living. We take control of our own “faucets” because others have run us dry. We do need balance.
But there comes a time when our fight for balance and control has the opposite effect: instead of freeing us, it restricts us. Here’s why: balance was never ours to find, but God’s to give.
Healing Requires Boundaries
Those who have suffered harm need to learn that personal boundaries are acceptable; they need to find a place of safety in order to heal. We teach the wounded how to rediscover and retain personal peace by setting “restraining orders” against the things that have tyrannized them in the past, whether physical or emotional. In other words, we restore control by erecting temporary walls. Or, to stay closer to our analogy, we shut off our spigots.
This is a good practice during times of healing, but a bad strategy for the long run. Why? Because control was never meant to remain in our hands, but in God’s.
Health Requires Trust
The ultimate goal of healing is that we learn to trust again. Because men fail us, we come to know that the most reliable recipient of our trust is God.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we see a healthy human being entrusting Himself fully to God, even in the worst of circumstances. Christ lets God be His “wall” of protection, setting the boundaries and filtering that which comes to Him, instead of shutting Himself down when He feels entitled to a break!
In fact, even on the sacred Sabbaths, we often find Jesus healing and caring for others, not protecting His own “down time.” Jesus doesn’t turn off His flow when He feels entitled. God, not self, becomes the giver of balance and personal peace.
Did Jesus Have Boundaries?
Did Jesus even have any boundaries? A cursory reading of the Gospels shows that He was inundated with people; crowds followed Him everywhere. Whole cities brought Him their sick. The disciples needed continuous teaching and training. Religious leaders attacked Him at every turn.
Luke 6:19 reads: “And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.”
Matthew 14:6 says: men brought to Jesus all who were sick in the city, and “begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.”
What’s more, despite the growing demands of the multitudes, Jesus issued an astonishing invitation in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me! I will give you rest!”
This is nothing short of amazing. The busiest leader in history, a man without office hours, staff members or even a predictable calendar, summons the world to His doorstep, offering them peace! Faced with a similar situation, we would be more apt to cry, “What about ME?”
Jesus didn’t try to “manage” people, nor did He run and hide from those who intended Him harm. Instead, He relied on His personal relationship with God to bring Him the peace He needed.
Taking opportunities at night or in the early morning hours while people slept, Jesus escaped to the mountainside to pray. He drew deeply from His Source so that others could draw deeply from Him. Because He was human like us, I imagine He prayed something like this:
“Abba, Thank you for what You are doing among your people. I rejoice in Your abundant goodness to them! Please fill Me with Your supernatural strength to continue ministering today. I trust You to set up My divine appointments and shield me from that which is not in Your plan right now. Show Me Your strategies, and help Me to do only what You are doing. Amen.”
What were Jesus’ boundaries? Where did He draw the line? In prayer. Christ yielded full control of His life and leadership to God, trusting that God knew best when to demonstrate His power or silence the crowds. Jesus wasn’t turning off His spigot at will; He was allowing the fountain of God to flow through Him, uninterrupted. Do we do that?
Spiritual Parenting: A Model for Life
As I’ve meditated on the life of Jesus with this image in mind, the best analogy I’ve found is that of parenting.
Those who have children understand that for the first three years or so, children are very “clingy.” In fact, when my oldest son was around two years old, my husband took a picture of him in the kitchen with me, his little arms wrapped around my legs even as I bustled about, making dinner. It captured the comical connection that characterized that time of his life: he never let go of his mama!
Isn’t it interesting that scholars say Jesus’ formal ministry time on earth lasted about three years?
Like very young children, the people Jesus ministered to needed constant reassurance of His presence. They needed their wounds healed with magic kisses. They cried for food when hungry, and craved the comfort and protection that only a parent can give. They needed mothering.
The Father, whom they knew from ancient times, seemed too harsh to them. They had rejected His rules and perceived Him as tougher, stronger; perhaps even uncaring.
Jesus came oozing comfort and love, as only a mother would. To Jerusalem He said: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:46, NIV)
A mother does not decide when her child is hungry; her child does. A mother’s milk flows on demand, not by her control. She is at the mercy of her children’s needs, true, but she is not “taxed” by it because of the joy she has in meeting those needs.
By God’s grace, mothers are given the strength to bear children, the will to nurture them day and night, and the unceasing flow of nutrients they need to survive. Motherhood is miraculous.
A mother’s assignment comes from God. Her ministry is like the continuous flow of a fountain for the better part of three years, sometimes more. She sleeps when babies sleep. She prays even as she works. Not for her are long quiet times alone; she is her child’s servant during this intense period of initial growth.
Later, her children will walk and not need carrying. Later, she will turn the child over to a helper. Later, she will find time alone to do the things that refresh her. For now, all of her attention and energy is focused on one thing only: nurturing her babies. As she cares for them, God cares for her.
I believe that this image is a beautiful picture of what God desires for leaders. We are not called to shut off the flow of the Spirit within us, but to be fountains of life-giving water, as Jesus was. Remember the woman with the issue of blood? She turned on the tap, not Jesus.
Jesus didn’t worry about monitoring His flow or guarding His time; He simply yielded himself to God and trusted. Jesus didn’t see some people as worthy of love and others as needing tighter boundaries. They were all His children! Yes, they all wanted a piece of Him. Maybe He felt “touched out” at the end of the day. But it was His joy to give all He had to those He bore.
Like children, Jesus’ disciples protested vehemently when that initial three years of nurturing was over; they did not want to be left with a “mother’s helper,” even a supernatural one!
Yet they grew more under the Holy Spirit’s tutelage then they ever could being “smothered” by Jesus. The milk of the Word had flowed freely; the time for meat had come. Wisdom knows when to release her children as well as when to hold them close.
I hear the Lord saying, “It is time to release control of that spigot!” Let go of old boundaries you once needed but which now restrict you. You are not meant to be “mostly off” but “always on!” Like Jesus, you can trust God to give you the balance, boundaries and rest you need even as you do the relentless work of ministry.
Healthy believers are flowing fountains of life, not sputtering spigots! They are always ready, always willing, always on.
© Deborah Perkins / www.HisInscriptions.com. Photo credits: Megan Johnston; Bryan Carlson and Vlad Bagacian of Unsplash.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.