"There are no complicating boundaries with God. Only the ones we construct."
We live in a world where our boundaries define us. I am basically an introverted person and as a result have a relatively large personal boundary which I don’t like being invaded by others. Some people are comfortable standing within inches of your face and talking to you. I find that very uncomfortable. I understand, that is one of my boundary issues.
Think of all the political boundaries we find in Wisconsin. Some folks who don’t live here (another boundary) shake their heads at the number of towns and townships and municipalities and wonder how anyone can keep all this straight.
Southeastern Wisconsin is famous for the fact that we are one of the few places in the United States where our voting patterns clearly follow the boundaries for units of government. If you review a map from Marquette University data for the 2012 presidential election, you can clearly see the boundary between Milwaukee and Waukesha counties by looking at nothing other than voting records. Think about that for a moment. Our county boundary also starkly demarks the voting boundary between Democrat and Republican voters in the region.
The same can be said by looking at race and income data. When you meet someone who is Hispanic and who lives in the region, you can probably guess correctly in which zip code their home is located. I think that is unjust, but I also believe it is true that unfortunately, race and geography coincide in this region. That is equally true for income. It is not by accident that 73% of all people who are poor in the four-county region reside in the city of Milwaukee.
And so, by many measures our boundaries help to define who we are, how we identify and where we live. Here is an exercise: Look at the maps at the top of this blog. Now, in your mind take out a big red marker and draw the boundaries dividing the region as if through the eyes of God. Where would God begin drawing boundaries here? Where do you see any red lines? I would have to put my red marker down and just ponder the idea that with God – there are no boundaries. There are no red lines dividing us. God doesn’t care what race or nationality you are, in what zip code you live, how much money you make or for whom you voted in the last election.
Here is a deeper question to ponder: Is there a boundary between you and God? If so, is the boundary something you created? Do you think God sees a boundary between you and him? I used to think that I was just this human fellow living my life on earth and God was somewhere “out there” and mostly judging me for things I did or even thought about doing which were wrong. I don’t believe that anymore. As I have said before, I am a Quaker and believe there is “that of God within each of us.” There is no boundary between me and God. I think about it like this: I recently took an Ancestry DNA test to find out my DNA heritage. I’m 45% Italian and Greek; 43% East European, 6% West Asian (Middle Eastern) and a smattering of others, including 1% Finnish. Now, there are no boundaries in these nationalities that make up me. It is just all me. I think it’s the same with God inside of me. There are no boundaries between God and me, there is just God who is a part of me. In the final analysis, the only boundaries we have are those we’ve constructed; some to simplify our lives and others that complicate them. There are no complicating boundaries with God, only the ones we construct.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.