from all sides, hem me in

“I know where I’m bound.  I know where I’m chained.  I know where I’m left alone.  I know no hunger.  I feel no pain.  But tonight, I want to go home.  So stay with me now and then.  From all sides, hem me in.  Sing me a song, so I can close my eyes.”  Now and Then, from Gypsy Flat Road by Sandra McCracken

Ethan will be five in March.  I don’t think he realizes the beauty of the spot he’s in at the moment, and that, in turn, is part of the beauty.

Ethan’s only regular chore is to carry the dirty laundry down to the laundry room each day.  Even at that, it’s a pretty good gig.  There’s no real deadline, except when Mom yells for the second or third time, “Ethan, I need the dirty clothes down here!”  So, he really doesn’t have to make plans or keep a schedule.  He just waits for Mom to say, “Go!”

He wakes up every morning with undefined days.  Boundaries are limited to nebulous ideas floating in the back of his mind, mostly related to the limits of our yard or close neighbors’ yards, and the certainty that someone from his family will be nearby all of the time.  He’s never even really had to consider those things as limitations.  He likes them that way.

In other words, Ethan’s boundaries, at least in his mind, are no big stinkin’ deal.  He can spend his days as whims dictate, potentially being, or becoming, anything he can imagine.  The world is wide open for Ethan every day:  superhero, fireman, giant, hobbit, or giraffe are all possibilities.  That is, until I say something like, “Go get ready for bed!”

Pity, such freedom is wasted on those too young to recognize its value.

Somewhere between there and here, boundaries became normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of the common human pep rally cries about being whatever we want, and never being too old to take over the world, and flying higher than eagles, and such tripe proffered daily by eternal optimists, and quite frankly, I believe in that stuff.

Let’s be honest, though.  At my age and in my circumstances – married with 10 children, a mortgage, and comfy middle-class life – predictability is rampant.  All my pathways have deep ruts.

I can accept that, most days, as just the way life is going to be.  Even in a mid-life crisis, I’m not dumb enough to think I could survive, much less thrive, in entirely unfamiliar territory.

Recently, though, I’ve been perceiving another message – a theme – in my conversations and thoughts:  The most critical boundaries are self-imposed and life circumstances are more often symptoms than root causes.

In other words, to get to the rapidly dulling point, God alone is the legitimate keeper of my days.   If I set the boundaries of life – circumstantial, emotional, relational, spiritual – on my own, I’ve usurped his authority.

I ought to be able to keep every day, every event, every decision, every moment’s content subject to his “whim”.  If I’m merely dealing God into the game with a deck that’s a few cards short, I’m selling life short.  Life’s too short.

Filters, fears, boundaries, preconceived notions, self-imposed expectations and standards – these are an affront to God’s authority in our lives.  These things are us telling him what’s acceptable.

I want him to hem me in.  From all sides, I want God, and him alone, to hem me in, to set my boundaries, my expectations, my path.  If I’m hemmed in by anything other than God, and his desires, I’ve become cozy with a less than abundant life.  If I’m hemmed in by him alone, the boundaries are trails and guardrails leading me to the freedom of abundant life.

Don’t get me wrong, of course, I’m going to work in the morning.  I’ve already set my alarm clock, picked my outfit, and planned my task list for the day.  I’m not suggesting I can live like I’m going-on-five again.

I’m suggesting, I can live like I’m going-on-whatever-God-wants-me-to-go-on again.  I can live with a heart that’s free from my own little world and open to God’s own giant, infinite universe.  I can wake up in the morning with a life full of possibilities, limited only by whatever is possible . . . and nothing is impossible with God.

It’s not about a career change or a new relationship or a new car or a new house, and probably not about anything old, either.  It’s about wanting “to go home”, where home is truly defined only by the location, design and furnishings God has imagined for our lives.

Please, God, be my heart’s only limitation.  Sing me a song, so I can close my eyes.

2 thoughts on “from all sides, hem me in”

  1. nice. 🙂
    also side note. when I met you ethan was not around….nor was he on the way. Crazy talk! It seems not so long ago.


  2. Our God is a God of order. At times, I have found myself thinking that I could create a reckless, spontaneous reality at the expense of those around me. I’m too timid of course, and this never really goes very far…

    I don’t crave chaos; I just crave freedom. But for true freedom, like anything worth anything, Sacrifices must be made.


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