When we brought our Irish Setter, Babe, home a few years ago, we soon realized beauty was about the only thing going for her. Beautiful red heads are not necessarily gifted with brains. She was sweet and submissive, but the only thing she knew consistently was BIRDS.

In the field beyond her fenced yard, birds gathered constantly. I figured out the first week that pretty soon she would realize she could go over the backyard fence and then there would be no keeping her in. The few times that had happened, she came home hours later, long red hair matted with stickers and reeking of pond water.

So I decided to put up a hot wire along the bottom of the fence. All one Saturday morning I set up posts and strung my wire. While I worked, Babe helped by periodically dashing through it, tangling it and making my blood pressure rise.

I warned her. I scolded, pointed, yelled, and tried in every way to warn her what was to come. But of course, she didn't care.

At last, I plugged it in.

I clipped on her leash, led her to the fence, and exonerated my conscience by explaining as clearly as I could in dog language that she was not to touch the fence. In typical Babe fashion, she shrank back and her eyes assured me she would never in a million years touch my fence. No, she wouldn't do such a thing. Ever.

Then I unhooked the leash.

It didn't take long. The birds were gathering and her 8-second memory elapsed and there she went. She hit the fence at a run and everything went into cartoon slow motion. Yelps, flying legs, tangled wire...she looked like a cartoon dog with nine legs whirling in the air.

I raced to unplug the fence and disentangle my traumatized dog. She slunk to the patio, visibly shaking, staring in horror at the yard that had suddenly attacked her. (It took forever to get her to go back outside, but that's another story!)

The theme of this one is that until my boundary had consequences, it meant nothing.

When we set boundaries in relationships, we often make the mistake of thinking that our angry reaction is their consequence. It doesn't work, does it? In marriages, family connections, or friendships, boundaries keep the relationship healthy. Consequences make sure the boundaries stay in place. A boundary-less existence is one filled with chaos, enabling, and dysfunctional people lining up to take advantage of the one with no boundaries.

Being a doormat is not the same thing as extending Christ-like love. Love gives freely from its abundance. Enabling gives because it feels it has no option. Consequences are justly earned results of a certain action. When we leap in the way of the rightly-earned consequences of another, we inhibit the work God wants to do in that person's life. God uses consequences to teach us.

Babe has never tried to go over the fence again. Once she ventured back out into the yard, she avoided that fence completely. I never even had to plug it back in!

What relationship in your life needs healthy boundaries with consequences?

Be sure you are not robbing others of their right to learn from the consequences they've earned.


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