Marking My Territory

There’s no reason to pee on the tree. It’s not your tree. Peeing on it won’t make it your tree.

We mark “our” territories often. We want people to make sure they know their boundaries. We tell them their boundaries by telling them ours. We walk the perimeter while looking others in the eye and firmly saying, “This is mine. You can walk alongside me, but watch your step. Don’t cross this line.”

What territorial boundaries do you set in your life?

I’m not saying boundaries are a bad thing. I’m saying self-defined boundaries can be a bad thing. The only way we can know where to step, with whom to step, and when to step is to listen to God. He directs our steps. I don’t know about you, but I struggle enough with listening to and obeying him with my own steps. Trying to determine someone else’s is next to impossible. I cannot respond in obedience for anyone else.

My sister and I shared a room when we were young. It was a large room with two twin beds and one door. My bed was on the opposite side of the room from the door. After some disagreements, my sister determined we needed to split the room. She drew the imaginary line down the center of the room. The only issue was…she “owned” the door. Her creative solution? I was allowed to jump from the doorway to her bed and then to my side of the room. And she thought she was doing me a favor!

You might laugh, but we all draw ridiculous, unnecessary lines in our lives. God-directed boundaries in relationships and responsibilities are not only acceptable but also essential. Self-directed boundaries are not. When we take control – and even rationalize God would want whatever we’re choosing – we’re doing more harm than good. We’re seeking our own will more than God’s. Even when we have good ideas, if they’re not the best ideas God has for us, we’re not within his will.

Be aware of the people and situations around you throughout the day. Notice the peeing-on-tree phenomenon. How are you being territorial? How are others being territorial?

Is your focus on God or personal preferences?

The point of peeing on a tree is to keep others away. If your goal is keeping others away, peeing on trees is a good way to do it, but I’m certain God doesn’t intend for you to do life on your own. His way is better. It stinks a lot less.

LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own;  it is not for them to direct their steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)

Your Guide

guide a: something that provides a person with guiding information; b: a person who directs another’s conduct or course of life; c: a device for steadying or directing the motion of something (merriam-webster.com)

What guides you?

Before you answer too quickly, let me give you a few scenarios.

  1. You hurriedly run into the store to pick up a few things. You need to get in and out as quickly as possible. As you approach the check out lane, you see someone with an overflowing cart getting ready to get into the shortest line – the one you were ready to get into. If you quicken your steps just a bit, you could possibly get there before she does.
  2. The service at the restaurant is horrible. You suspect someone didn’t show up for work, because the servers are doing their best at trying to cover too many tables. But your coffee is regular, not decaf, and your toast is burned. Your server places the check on the table. It’s time to decide on her tip.
  3. You’ve been getting together with a group of women for a short time. It’s a group of women you feel a connection with and can see longterm relationships budding. You listen to them talk about a woman who called to say she’d miss the get-together because of a family issue, and you hear more of the family issue you feel you need to know. You’re fairly certain the woman wouldn’t want these details shared so freely, and you know you wouldn’t want the group talking about you when you weren’t there…but you wonder how they’ll respond if you speak up.

What influences your decisions?

Past experiences? Words of parents, teachers and friends? Expectations of who you are or who you should be? Standards of your faith? Guilt? Convenience?

When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others. Philippians 2:3-4

Easier said than done sometimes. We’re inundated with a multitude of messages from many people around us. We’ve been bombarded with messages of our culture for years. Plus the fact that we’ll atrophy into selfishness because that’s just how people are. We have to be deliberate about not letting selfishness and pride guide us, being humble, honoring others, and being interested in the lives of others.

Being deliberate involves careful and thorough consideration as well as an awareness of the consequences. Next time you’re faced with a decision, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How will my decision impact others and my relationships with them?
  • What message am I sending and what values am I reflecting by my decision?
  • What am I basing my decision on, and is that basis credible?

In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. Philippians 2:5-6