You Are Your Boundaries- Abstract Watercolor Landscapes

This year's series of using art as a tool to explore the big question of Identity looks at "Who Am I" and the book by Klyne Snodrass, "Who God Says You Are."  This month of January, 2020, we are exploring how boundaries shape our identity.  [All quotes are from the above book.]

We may not like it but we need boundaries.  "In Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall," Frost is repairing a wall with his neighbor and seems not so sure about walls and wonders what he is walling in and walling out.  We need boundaries, but wrongly understood, they diminish life.  Life is about  boundaries, but it is also about seeking intimacy and relations despite our boundaries.  Identity is established by difference, by recognizing what we are and what we are not, and that is based on boundaries, whether geographical, social, religious, occupational, or other.  I am me, not you.  I am human, not God.  Identifying others or oneself is a means of differentiation..."

"The first thing God did was create boundaries separating the land from the sea and the light from the dark, between species after their kind, and between male and female.  God's choosing Israel was about  boundaries.  The Law and worship and time and property and relations and temple were symbolic boundaries.  God may be one with us, but God is neither contained by not identified with creation or an individual.  God is a distinct being who existed before creation and can exist without creation."

"Being is a process of recognizing and establishing some boundaries and of removing others, and life is about negotiating boundaries.  Bodies are boundaries and are not to be isolated.  Parenting is often teaching about boundaries and the process of negotiation of boundaries in transition.  Elderly people often become cantankerous  because they are trying to defend the few boundaries they have left.  Marriage and sexual intercourse both are a merging of boundaries.  To think one can merge such boundaries with any and every person is as ill-founded as to think one is universal and can merge with any and all gods.  All relations involve overlapping or sharing of boundary edges, but that is quite different from boundary merging.  With marriage two people invite each other into full sharing of boundaries in a way not accessible to others.  Sexual intercourse is a physical and psychic expression of that full sharing of boundaries."

"'No boundaries' is a nice slogan but a huge illusion, and the people using the slogan would not want literally to live without boundaries.  The slogan, of course, seeks to avoid limitations and life-denying restrictions, but where would we be without proper restrictions?  Not just anyone is allowed to practice medicine, administer an MRI, or perform a host of other actions, and we don't want them to."

"Even though we imagine we do not like boundaries, we cannot live without them.  We need boundaries, and we are better off when they are made explicit.  Some boundaries are negative; some are positive; some are set for us; and some we set for ourselves.  Relations and commitments create boundaries.  In addition, all of us have an innate need to distinguish ourselves from others to show we are not our parents, our siblings, or our friends.  Distinguishing ourselves creates boundaries, and it establishes identity."

"Life is about finding where our boundaries are---boundaries between parent and child, boundaries marking danger, boundaries where businesses help or violate each other, and boundaries respecting other people and their property and freedom.  People of integrity are people who respect the boundaries of other people.  We learn we cannot just do what we want with other people's lives and possessions.  If you do not learn to set and negotiate boundaries,, you cannot succeed in life, for life is largely about  boundary negotiation.  Our safety and enjoyment depend on our boundaries being observed.  We put boundaries around people we do not trust-either literally in prisons or figuratively in not welcoming them.  In the process we also put boundaries around ourselves."

Exercise***  Take a moment to write down all of the groups to which you belong.  We all belong to multiple groups where we live, work, or play.  Groups are defined by common geography, common goals or vision, common language, common commitments and practices, common relations, and common experiences.  This is a good exercise to do with your spouse or child and to do periodically to take stock of the boundaries that you have set up for yourself.

So, what about your faith  and boundaries?  If you have chosen to follow Jesus, that choice transforms your identity and boundaries.  "In the chapter in this book "Faith Transforms Identity," much of the Bible is about  boundaries- a boundary around one tree in Eden, a boundary around Mount Sinai, boundaries in the tabernacle and temple, etc.  The early church knew it had a common geography-not in a place, but because of believer' common existence in Christ.  What if we took seriously the point made in the chapter on relations, that we live 'in Christ'?  What if we had some sense that the character of Christ se the boundaries for our own lives?  this is indeed what Christianity is supposed to mean.  Conversion is a change of boundaries, so that life is not hemmed in by our own self-centeredness but is set within boundaries that fit the character of Christ.  Obviously to speak of boundaries and identity requires that we recognize multiple overlapping boundaries that make up our identity.  Which boundaries are really essential to who we are as Christians, and which are incidental and could be changed without real loss, or which are a violation of the character of Christ and must be rejected?"

"Your body is still the first boundary defining you, but as a Christian your body is recontextualized--boundaried by Christ-and reinterpreted.  It is not merely yours, but as a temple of God has a double ownership.  It belongs to God and is only secondarily your, and it requires even stronger boundary care than before.  Who is allowed to influence your boundaries, and what is allowed within your boundaries?  The materialistic assumptions and sexual practices of our society are an assault on our boundaries, and they lead to disaster and violation of God's intent."

"So what are those things that have No boundaries?  Boundaries against sin are mandator, but no boundaries can be allowed to se the limits of virtue.  Yes, virtue must be wise, but it does not have boundaries.  Some boundaries are not permitted for Christians, boundaries between races and classes or boundaries that se limits to forgiveness and love.  There can be no boundaries of responsibility.  One has only tot think of Jesus's rejection of Peter's question about how many times he had to forgive.  Pter sought a boundary for forgiveness, but Jesus says there is not.  There can be no boundaries of responsibility  because there are no boundaries for the love God calls us to show.  The boundary of your locale can no longer be the extent of your care, for the Great Commission and the nature of love compel a universal vision for God's kingdom and mission in the world.  We are defined by our own place but not limited to it.  At the same time, no individual can deal with all the needs and problems people have.  How will we negotiate boundaries of care wisely so that we are neither immune to the need nor overwhelmed by the responsibility?"

"So, what are your boundaries?  Which ones do you just assume, whether you should or not?  Which need to be reinforced, and which need to  be minimized?  How do you negotiate boundaries?  How fixed or permeable are your boundaries, especially your ethical boundaries?  Who gets included in your definitional boundaries and how easily?  How do you do boundary maintenance?  Boundaries are about inclusion and exclusion, so some boundaries are not allowed--those between races or to se the limits of forgiveness--and some boundaries must not be crossed--those that lead you into sin. 
You Are Your Boundaries!"

Our art that helped us explore boundaries was watercolor.  We first taped a boundary around our piece of watercolor paper to make a boundary that the water and paint would not cross, thus producing a simple border frame.

We next wet the paper above and below a one inch dry horizon.  This horizon was placed either in the upper third of the painting or the lower third.  The color palette was limited to 3 colors, and a plastic tool was dragged across the 3 colors and then applied in a straight line on the dry horizon, intersecting the wet.  The paint was allowed to move by tilting the boards.  This process encourages freedom of movement and to allow the abstract to emerge.  The artist was able to see the boundaries of wet and dry and how the paint moved through the wet but was stopped at the dry boundary.
The results were beautiful!


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