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Dave Brisbin

Breaking Boundaries

Thirty years ago, three men, Catholic priests, gave me some of their time, became key figures, teachers in my life. I didn’t see it then—it takes time to see trajectories being established, the paths that remain. One of the three I only met once, but I still remember his name and the names on all the book covers he pointed out at the bookstore that afternoon. The other two I knew longer, a period of years. They counseled me and challenged me and then they were gone. I always thought we’d reconnect, but two of them died years ago, and we never did.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. They came into my life exactly when I was ready to receive them, gave me what they had become, and though they left again before I was ready, I still remember their names.

The hardest part of being a pastor is watching people go. Letting those who have become friends go their way, sometimes never knowing if you really helped, never hearing the rest of the story. But like teachers and parents, for most of the relationships we engage, at some point the nest empties. Life takes them in and out of focus and proximity. We assume and want to believe that all our relationships will last a lifetime, but whether they do or not, they are only ever experienced as moments of connection.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now. And though it can still hurt, I can finally see the way of it, the necessity of it. When we’re ready, a person appears, and we let down our defenses and let them in…show up, break boundaries, connect, give all we’ve become, and when it’s time, let go. If we can’t let go, the strings attached show us how it was much more about meeting our own needs than a gift freely given, the simple flow of who we’d become.

Jesus healed ten lepers one day. Sent them off to the temple to be restored to their families. Only one came back to thank him. That didn’t stop Jesus from doing the very same thing the very next day. Our moments of connection define us. There is no outcome or legacy, no rest of the story. Just the willingness to break a boundary and make all you’ve become available to whomever you’re with.


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