Pleasant Lines

The wealthy old man had finally died, and his sons gathered in the lawyer’s office to hear the reading of his will: one a farmer, one a fisherman, and one a builder. Their father had owned thousands of acres of land, and had decided to divide it equally among his sons, though he had not told them how he had drawn the lines. As they waited to hear where and how their father had split the inheritance, each son wondered what he would receive. How would the new property lines fall? As the lawyer read the father’s will, all three heirs smiled after hearing their inheritance. Each son got the slice of land that most suited his tastes. To the fisherman, the father had left the parcel of land with a bubbling brook; to the farmer, he’d left fertile fields; and to the builder, the flat stretch of land with the breathtaking view. As the brothers walked away, each could truly say the new property lines had been drawn in pleasant places.

I’m not going to talk about property lines, but other types of boundary markers that mark out our lives—and that we often chafe against.

Unpleasant Lines

I am a mother of a three- and a one-year-old. The boundary lines of my life involve nap times, diaper changes, potty accidents, messy meals, temper tantrums, snotty noses, and a lot of Paw Patrol. I’m often tempted to push against these boundary markers. I look forward to the time when both kids are potty trained or in school, assuming those boundary lines will be so much more pleasant.

Maybe your boundary lines have nothing to do with children. Perhaps you struggle with boundaries regarding your physical abilities. An injury or illness or maybe simply limitations because of age keep you from doing all the things you’d like to do. Or maybe you have diet restrictions. The salt or the sugar that you once loved has been deemed off-limits. Or the gluten. Or dairy. Now you’re having a difficult time seeing how these lines could possibly be called “pleasant.”

Then again, you might be fighting other lines. Maybe you look at people with public ministries and wonder why you weren’t gifted with such abilities. Or, like me, you scan through Pinterest and marvel at people with so much more artistic talent than you and wonder, “How come I couldn’t have gotten just a little bit of that?”

Perhaps the lines that seem not-so-pleasant in your eyes have more to do with the bottom line. You wish you had the resources to be really generous like your friends, but your house and your bank account dictate that you manage your resources very carefully. You feel “doomed” to shop at thrift stores, garage sales, and Aldi.

Maybe for you the unpleasant lines actually are located on a map. Perhaps God has asked you to move away from the familiar surroundings of friends and family and transplanted you where everything feels foreign and strange. You miss your old house, your old church, your old street, even your old mailperson. These new lines feel most unpleasant!

Or perhaps you’re wrestling with unpleasant lines of suffering: a grim diagnosis, chronic pain, aging parents, a prodigal child, or another of the “various trials ” to which we’re all susceptible. The lines of your adversity may feel both lonely and harsh.

Finally, if you’ve been a follower of Christ for any length of time, you’ve probably balked at the lines drawn in the area of personal convictions. It always seems like the world is having more fun! They get to do whatever they want, and never seem to get in trouble. You wonder, then, why you’re “wasting” your time maintaining your personal standards of holiness. Those lines seem anything but pleasant.

We all have lines that feel like they’ve fallen to us in harsh places. King David, though he did eventually become king, knew something about difficulty. As the youngest son, he wasn’t even considered by his father when Samuel came looking for the next king to anoint (1 Sam. 16); he got chased around the Israel countryside by a maniacal king and would eventually be murderously pursued again by his very own son. Yet somehow, he still managed to write these lines:

LORD, you are my portion and my cup of blessing;
you hold my future. 
 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.  (Psa 16:5-6)

A Beautiful Inheritance

David was likely thinking covenantally with these lyrics. Part of the promise to Abraham included the inheritance of land. David’s family (the nation of Judah) had gotten their inheritance long ago in the days of Joshua. However, David isn’t thinking like a Judah-ite; he’s comparing himself to another tribe—the tribe of Levi.

You may remember that Levi didn’t inherit land because they were a tribe of priests. God told Aaron (a Levite), “You will not have an inheritance in their land; there will be no portion among them for you. I am your portion and your inheritance among the Israelites” (Num 18:20). David’s showing us that even though he wasn’t a Levite, he still viewed God as the portion of his inheritance. And that’s exactly what God wants all His people to recognize—you and me included.

Nowhere in Scripture is our inheritance more beautifully displayed than in the opening chapter of 1 Peter. Writing to believers enduring suffering much like you and I experience, Peter reminds them of the pleasant lines of their wondrous inheritance:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials (1Pe 1:3-6 CSB)

Peter points to the incorruptible, unadulterated, unwavering inheritance offered to those united with Christ. Because God, in the greatness of His mercy, chose to unite us with Christ both in His death on our behalf and His victorious resurrection, we are now able to experience the unending, inconceivable riches of God. It’s this hope that allows us to declare that the lines indeed have fallen to us in pleasant places.

Later in the same chapter, Peter exhorts his readers to “set [their] minds completely on the grace to be brought to [them] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 13). Only when our minds stop worrying about the temporary, time-bound lines, can we begin to see the wonder of our eternal inheritance.

Pleasant Lines

The temporary boundaries that feel harsh and unpleasant are not the real boundaries. They’re mere shadows of the true inheritance. They remind us that our lot on earth is not our true inheritance. And if the lines of your life now do seem to be pleasant, allow them to move your heart to rejoice all the more in the unimaginably greater inheritance that awaits.

 No one who truly believes will be cut short or disinherited. So, my friend, whether you’re struggling with your season of life, limitation of resources or physical ability, giftedness, location, or personal convictions, a valley of suffering, or some other unpleasant boundary, remember that those lines are not the real lines. Remember that you are a co-heir with Christ and that God Himself is your inheritance, and you’ll be able to sing with David, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my inheritance is beautiful!”

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