I have never known a time in my life when I did not know Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. However, there was a time I did not know who I was “in” Him. I was confident in Him and His ability, but not in who He had created me to be or what He could do through me. As a result I was shy, easily intimidated, and experienced low self-esteem. I avoided conversation as much as possible because I blushed and broke out in hives. As I continued to pursue my degree in child psychology I learned about “boundaries”, “personal space”, and “comfort zones”. How elated I was to discover there was a psychological explanation for my sense of panic with people. I learned they were infringing on my personal space or coming too close for comfort. In fact, I was thrilled because now I had an excuse to remain a loner, stay in my comfort zone, and avoid unnecessary exposure to any person or situation that even hinted at risky. I misguidedly believed “this” was how God had made me.
Obviously the elation and thrill was only because I had found an excuse for my inability to socialize. When I began to pursue God as earnestly as I had pursued by degree in psychology He began to reveal manifold dimensions of Himself, and I came to know Him as my defender, friend, encourager, and shelter. My limited view of God as Lord and Savior was expanded and it quickly became apparent I was not created to live within my self-imposed boundaries. I discovered the liberty I had in the Spirit of the Lord was meant to be experienced with people and I would need to lose excuses, comfort zones, personal space, and boundaries. 2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
There is so much to study and navigate through when it comes to personal space, boundaries, and comfort zones that we could spend weeks discussing these phenomenon’s, but here are the basic encyclopedic definitions of each to give the overall idea. I have simplified them for ease of reading and in order not to plagiarize.
† Personal space: The area surrounding a person that they regard as their own. If people invade this space it often leads to discomfort, anxiety, or even anger. The idea of personal space was derived from Edward T. Hall and his ideas were influenced by a man who studied the behavior of zoo animals. Hmmmm……
† Personal boundaries: These are guidelines, rules, or limits a person creates for themselves to identify what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.
† Comfort zone: An environment including behaviors in which a person feels comfortable without creating any sense of risk. Comfort zones are based on emotions, but they cause people to create and operate within mental boundaries thus establishing an unfounded sense of security.
Understanding these concepts might explain why we do what we do, think the way we think, and act how we act, but they do not motivate us to be who our heavenly Father created us to be. Though we might psychologically “understand” ourselves through defining our own personal space, boundaries and comfort zone, we will not be conformed to the image of Christ by living within them. There are major flaws inherent within these models:
† Explaining human personal space through the behavior of animals – That is just plain absurd. Observing animals does not explain human behavior. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” God is not an animal and we are not animals.
† A person creates this space for “themselves” – Since when do we control space and determine who can come into it or not? 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” God is perfectly capable of taking care of us. After all, He lives in us. All space is His!
† A person identifies what is permissible for others – We do not control other people but rather look out for their interests. We do not consume ourselves with protection when we know the God who protects us.1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” We subject ourselves to God and let Him take care of others. Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
† A person pre-determines how they will respond when someone steps outside the limits they have established – We do not need to “plan” how we will respond when others do what they want instead of what we want. We should be ready to respond to the hope in us not our rules. 1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”
† A person plans and creates their environment to include only as much risk as they are comfortable – When did “comfort” become our objective by which all other activities are measured? Matthew 14:29 “So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.” Jesus says “Come”. Building our own space and boundaries and staying in our comfort zone hinders us from going with Jesus.
† Security is sought through creating boundaries – This only gives a false sense of security. True security is found in only One, Jesus Christ! Proverbs 1:33 “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”
I am not saying this psychological jargon does not give us facts about ourselves as human beings. It does! I actually enjoy psychology but what generally happens is that we get a false sense of who we are through these explanations, thus we literally stay entrapped in our self-imposed zone, space, and boundary. Knowing facts but living in the Truth of God’s will and Word frees us to be His disciples.
This leads us to a deeper revelation of why Jesus calls us His sheep while looking at another similarity we have with them. Sheep have flight zones much like we have comfort zones. The flight zone is the area surrounding the sheep that when encroached upon will cause alarm and escape behavior. If something or someone enters the flight zone of a sheep they experience discomfort, anxiety, anger and want to move away. The flight distance depends on the situation and on the tameness or wildness of the sheep. Tame sheep have no flight zone meaning they trust and experience no fear of predators because they trust their shepherd, hear his voice, and follow. Wild sheep have very large flight zones because without a shepherd to protect, lead, and guide them, they look out for themselves. Thus they are generally skittish, continuously on the lookout for predators, ready to run at any moment.
Our comfort zone size is dependent on how trusting we are (tame or wild) and on who we trust (ourselves or God). The more we trust our good shepherd, Jesus, the less need we have of creating personal boundaries or a flight zone. The less we trust Him, or do not receive Him as Shepherd, the greater and more expansive our boundaries because we sense a need to protect ourselves.
Let me also say we should and are commanded to use wisdom and discernment. We do not walk without alertness and sobriety. The Bible clearly tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We are not to be ignorant of what is going on around us and who can harm us. But that does not mean we are consumed with setting up protective barriers around ourselves, attempting to control every other person’s behavior toward us, or reflecting our demands onto other people. The key is found in James 4:7 “Submit to God, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Thus our time is spent submitting to God and His will and resisting the devil and all he brings to distract us from our purposes in God rather than keeping ourselves protected.
Any comfort/ flight zone we maintain should be based on fellowship with light and darkness not as determined by our personal space or self-imposed boundaries. Though we are light in a dark world not to be hidden and salt of the earth meant to season the world we still need to distance ourselves from evil. The main point is we do not “fellowship”, in the truest biblical sense of the word, “become one with” the evil in this world. Evil can penetrate should we choose to participate in worldly things believing we are immune from the poison of sin. 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
The Bible reveals we are sanctified, set apart, consecrated for His purposes. There IS a flight zone for us to secure our place of refuge. 2 Corinthians 6: 14-18 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”
We will stop wasting time in an attempt to understand and protect our psyches when we start spending our time knowing who God is and who we are in Christ. If we are honest the real reason we create comfort zones, boundaries, and space because we fear what people can do to us. We would not “need” to control what others say and do to us when we put our complete trust in God. Psalm 56:11 “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6 “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6 “So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
I started this blog with saying there was a time I knew God but did not know who I was in God. Beloved, let us be people who lose our own personal space, boundaries and comfort zones, choosing to know God and who we are in Him, living in His zone, within His boundaries, and inside His space.