I think it was Dave’s idea. Or it could have been Steve’s. Maybe it was my idea? It’s a bit hazy to me exactly who came up with the idea. But one thing was clear: We were all on board for this adventure.
It was Pat’s birthday and one of us came up with the idea that it would be cool if we could get into the newly constructed Camden Yards baseball stadium where the Baltimore Orioles would soon begin playing their baseball games back in the early 1990s. We were all high school baseball players, so this seemed like a great way to celebrate our buddy’s birthday!
We made the short drive up to Baltimore late that night. Upon arriving, of course, we came face to face with numerous signs that said “No Trespassing” and “Violaters Will Be Prosecuted” and “Danger”. But we figured that it wouldn’t do any harm to jump the construction fence for a little bit, have a little fun, take a few pictures, and then make our way home. The boundaries didn’t seem so relevant to us. After all, we had only good intentions.
Accompanied by my friends (one of whom became a doctor, one became a lawyer, one became a very successful salesman, and one is a professional baseball manager), we scaled the fence and we were in! For twenty minutes, we had the time of our lives. We ran the bases. We pretended to hit home runs. We horsed around in the dugouts. You talk about a good time, we had one! For a few minutes, we were Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina, Ken Griffey, Jr. and all the other big league stars that we looked up to. Until … two uniformed officers with flashlights started running down the stadium steps in our direction.
The party was over, fast. Not only that, but our lives flashed in front of us. We were good kids who got good grades and stayed out of trouble—for the most part. So the fact that we were getting arrested was, to say the least, not something that we were comfortable with. To put it bluntly, we were squirming! The police must have sensed all of the above and after effectively scaring us with some tough talk, they let us go. They claimed that they weren’t in the mood to fill out the paperwork on us. We were fine with that. We thanked them profusely and told them that they would never see us in that ballpark again—without a ticket to the game. I think back now and wonder what in the world we were thinking. That could have been a real mess.
This somewhat funny story from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, connects personally for me to a very serious story from one of the recent Torah portions in the book of Leviticus. In Parashat Sh’mini, we read about the story of Nadab and Abihu. The Torah doesn’t give us a lot of details about why God struck them dead. All we know is that on their first day on the job as priests, they brought “unauthorized fire” before HaShem, which he had not commanded them (Leviticus 10:1). While studying this parashah, one of my favorite rabbis noted that the story of Nadab and Abihu has various parallels with the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden.
Both the Tabernacle and the garden were designed to be holy spaces in which God would meet with and dwell with man. Both spaces were designed to be like a little slice of heaven on earth—where death and contamination could not dwell. And with both spaces, God set up boundaries, not to hinder his relationship with the people involved, but to protect those relationships. God made it clear that when those boundaries were crossed, it would bring death in some form. Unfortunately, with both Nadab and Abihu and Adam and Eve, death resulted when they crossed the boundaries that God said not to cross.
When my friends and I went way past the boundaries at Camden Yards, God showed us mercy. We could have been arrested that night—which would have been a big mess. We didn’t respect the boundaries that were in place for our good. It almost cost us a pretty big price.
Thinking about the boundaries crossed in each of these stories (the biblical ones and my own) inspired me to reflect upon the importance of boundaries in our relationship with God. I have frequently heard the saying that God is into “relationship, not rules.” Someone actually said a version of that to me today. But that is not entirely true. God is into relationship. Whether in the Garden of Eden, through the Tabernacle, or in Yeshua, God has made it clear that he wants to have relationship with us and dwell in our midst. However, God has established good and healthy boundaries, not to hinder us, but to cause our relationship with him to flourish. Those boundaries, which most often are expressed through his commandments, are his kind way of marking out “safe places” for us to stay within.
I’d like to encourage you to think about boundaries in your life. Are you crossing boundaries that are hurting your relationship with God in some way? The boundary could be something clearly communicated in Scripture. Or the boundary could be something outside of Scripture that you know is a line that you shouldn’t cross in order to maintain a healthy relationship with our Father in heaven.
If you know that you’ve crossed a boundary with God, the great news is that we can return to him. God says, “Return to Me and I will return to you” (Zechariah 1:3).
So today, don’t wait! Think about your boundaries and maybe where you’ve crossed them with God. If you have crossed the line, turn around before it hurts you any worse. And know that just as in the garden, in the Tabernacle, and through Yeshua, God wants to dwell among us while maintaining boundaries that both protect us and cause us to flourish.