The Need for Boundaries: Climbing out of Obligation
For whatever reason, saying “No” did not come easily to me. (If you know me, you know I’m getting much better at it though). I value being helpful, being available, being charitable, being Christian, being unselfish and when I say “no,” even if I have a very legitimate situation that prevents me from helping, I find myself battling the impulse to label my actions as contrary to all of those ideals. Also, I am very fortunate to find myself in a family and religious community where people regularly and diligently sacrifice to help each other. I know that joy, connection and blessings can come from forgetting oneself for a time. The trouble is, I’d forgotten myself so much that I’d almost disappeared and when I did re-appear there wasn’t much that was recognizable.
I realized that ultimately I am the person assigned to look out for me. (I have to remind myself of this all the time). As compassionate, friendly and kind as my circle of family and friends is, none of them have the insight and information necessary to determine when I am reaching a limit. As understanding folks, they would not routinely ask me to stretch myself uber-thin so apparently there was some communication that needed to occur and the limit call, that was mine alone to make.
My other struggle was faith. I know that the Savior responds readily to my pleas for help but He was not stepping in the way I thought He would. I began to believe He also expected me to be resourceful as I determined what was needful. When Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon he was given the following counsel by the Lord:
“Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end” (Doctrine & Covenants 10:4).
These words came just after he had been bestowed with the gift of translation for a second time. The first time he got distracted, lost his focus and made some choices that amounted to a heap of trouble. He recognized the error of his ways and was given another chance to translate this beautiful record. Let’s be clear: The book he was translating would change people’s lives. Forever. The book he was translating would provide a foundation for a whole new way of viewing heaven. This work that he was setting out to do was huge. I imagine he would’ve felt especially zealous as he wanted to prove himself worthy of heaven’s trust again. And even with all of that potential for goodness, the FIRST thing the Lord tells him after he bestows the gift of translation again is: don’t overdo it. He counsels Joseph to be mindful of his limits as well as the grace he is being offered and to respect the enduring nature of the task at hand. It seems like He’s encouraging Joseph to figure out how this really big priority of translation can become a part of his life without overwhelming him.
In our lives, we are doing small things that are kernels of greatness, in the myriad of interactions in our homes and communities we have the potential to wield goodness and change lives. I believe these words apply to us too.