Our beautiful border collie has a disgusting habit. I love her. Really I do. She is such a calming part of my life. She never argues with me. She will eat anything with enthusiasm. She snuggles with me daily. You can see how I could quickly forget that she is a dog. What I am about to tell you will confirm her dogness. 

She rolls in poop.

Somehow, in her dog life, rolling in a friend’s poop is polite, satisfying, or shows power. I don’t yet know her motivation. All I know is that in my people life, it’s gross. 

Every time she does this, I have to hose her down and wash her. The last time was on a Sunday morning at 7:00. It was freezing outside. I keep thinking that since she learns by association, perhaps this stinky custom will stop. She certainly does not enjoy the baths. 

Do I still love her? Of course. Today, because she has been outside since that last episode, she needs a bath before coming inside. I have to decide if I want to continue with our relationship as it is. I miss her being in the house with the family, but can I continue to wash her every time she bonds with the pit bull next door? (I’ll let you know later.)

In the people world, as Christ followers, we are asked to forgive seventy times seven. For the same offense. Over and over and over. If I struggle with this, I just remind myself the forgiveness given to me by Jesus does not expire. His grace is boundless.

I can forgive my dog, but in that forgiveness choose not to continue washing her. I can forgive an abuser, but choose not to be abused any longer. I can forgive the manipulator, but choose not to be manipulated. I can forgive the addiction, but choose not to enable. I can forgive the betrayal, but choose to guard my heart.

Boundaries. They are what prevents us from being sucked into the vortex of another person’s sin. Let me say first that there is no way to protect ourselves from every hurt. Life is about loving people and people are messy. We can forgive someone, but in the wisdom given to us by the Spirit, recognize ways to set up healthy boundaries with those who continually hurt us in their sin. Some have called this “tough love”.

Personally, I think it is much easier to have boundaries with my children than it is with other adults. Last year I was dealing with a selfish child. (I know, that’s normal.) This child’s selfishness became hurtful. Characterized by entitlement and a lack of gratitude, I was disrespected for not delivering what she wanted. It was not a relationship of give and take; it was unhealthy. I decided to put up some boundaries. 

I let her know that she was using me. For the next thirty days I would not do more than provide for her basic needs for food and shelter. No spending money, no rides to a friend’s house or a store. I told her this with a gentle spirit, not anger. I was taking a break from her unhealthy perspective of our relationship. 

A couple of times in my life I have had to step back from relationships with those I could no longer trust. I did so in the freedom of forgiveness. 

I have a friend who had to set boundaries with mother her had an unhealthy dependence on her coupled with heaping shame and guilt on her. Who needs that? She loves her mother, but no longer allows herself to be pulled down or manipulated. 

Forgiveness is what God calls us to, but when we set ourselves free by forgiving those who hurt us, we also need to use godly wisdom. Sometimes what we see as forgiveness has become enabling. 

Yes, I’m going out to wash my sweet dog. Next time? I’m not sure about next time. 

Proverbs 4:23

New International Version (NIV)
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.