OR: The If… Then…. Worry Trail as a motivator for boundaries
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff.
Are you familiar with this children’s story? The general idea is how something as simple as giving a mouse a cookie can spin off into many other complicated and thoroughly unanticipated happenings. It’s an adorable and absolutely ridiculous story. There is also If You Give a Moose a Muffin, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If You Take Mouse to the Movies and If You Take a Mouse to School, the same general plot line revisited in a variety of different ways.
My youngest daughter asked me to read the original mouse story today. As I did, I was amazed at how it fit into some of my current thinking on boundaries. It is not, of course, making a point about boundaries, but the silliness of the story made me think about how I can trip out on cause and effect, if… then… thinking, and then try to deal with the resultant fear by placing down more boundaries of protection.
When I do this, the placement of boundaries (both the interpersonal kind as well as the kind intended to keep me from “slipping up”) is so driven by fear and a need (compulsion?) to be proactively protective, that it almost becomes ridiculous.
If I do this, then that might happen, and then this other thing might happen, and then that would lead to this thing that I’m trying to avoid. So let me stop way back here, because I’m so afraid of ending up there. If I don’t want this and that and the other unfortunate or wrong thing to happen, the best thing I can do is avoid “giving a mouse a cookie”, because, of course “everyone knows where that leads”.
And it makes me sad to realize. Sometimes I think I miss out on receiving joyfully and exuberantly God’s provisions and gifts in my life because I’m so afraid of becoming dependent on those gifts. So, today, I’ll place a boundary to restrict something out of the fear that IF I whatever, THEN this other feared thing might happen, so I might as well stop myself way back here.
And other times, I miss out on trusting the Holy Spirit to lead and guide and convict me, when necessary, because I’m so busy trying to self-control myself (instead of letting that self control be a fruit of the Holy Spirit), that I’m drawing a very big line in the sand of what I will not let myself do in order to avoid one potential danger or temptation that’s still pretty far out there. I become (or try to be) my own Holy Spirit.
Even as I say this, let me repeat again that I’m not disregarding the need for boundaries or for lines in the sand (I’m a parent, so, trust me, I know that rules and lines and boundaries are very important). But, today it struck me how ridiculously far and sometimes legalistically, I draw lines and lay down boundaries to protect myself or my children from “what might happen”.