Originally published Friday, 16 March 2018.
As mornings sometimes go with children, I was running late. The Little One had to be at school by 6:15 am for an annual trip to a Fine Arts Competition. Though well-intentioned, we woke up at 5:42. In this short space of time, we did not get to eat a proper breakfast at home, so the plan was made to stop at any coffee shop for a hot beverage. I ran into Starbucks since they had the shorter line - only 3 people, but no one was being helped. I took a risk and decided to ask the second person in line if I could order in front of him. He simply looked at me and said no. I smiled, said OK and ran back to the car and told the Little One she would have to forego a hot beverage today.
This past February was one of the rainiest months on record since I've lived in California. Towards the end of February, we had a storm that wreaked havoc on the entire state. For the folks up north in parts of Silicon Valley, the dam broke, homeowners were evacuated out of their homes due to flooding, and there was great property loss. Our damages on this end were not as severe but there were repercussions - 100 yr old trees fell on parked cars, sinkholes were created in streets where cars fell in, there were mudslides and the fence between my house and the neighbor's house collapsed on our side.
The beauty of all this rain is that water usage has gone down and everything is green, really green.
When I realized that the fence had collapsed I was in awe; it gave me a new perspective literally and figuratively. Before the fence fell, I'd never seen my neighbor's backyard. I did not realize they had a pool or other things back there. Now the fence was up for a very good reason - they have dogs. Big dogs. Dogs that look scary to me and sound scary when they're out. When she takes them for a walk, it's like they're walking her instead of the other way around. These dogs are big and rambunctious and just in case it's not clear - I do not like dogs.
A little tidbit about fences - fences on a boundary line belong to both owners when both are using the fence. Both owners are responsible for keeping the fence in good repair, and neither may remove it without the other's permission. Until the fence fell, I was not aware of this rule.
So the fence served a great purpose - it kept those dogs away from me. But it also created a barrier. Until the storm, my neighbor had never rung my doorbell. But now because of the fallen fence, they've rung the doorbell, actually came in and we've even exchanged phone numbers.
Fences don't just affect us, they affect the person on the other side also. When I decided to ask that man if I could go in front of him, I knocked my fence down. This wasn't my normal course of action, it was almost storm-like, but I took the risk. I didn't get the outcome I wanted, and was immediately tempted to be down and vow never to do this again - put my fence back up. Instead, I decided it's worth it to keep the fence down and be open. On the flip side, when someone in dire straits needed to go in front of me I've acquiesced. So for situations like this, my fence will remain down, though it might be uncomfortable. But there are other times when we need fences, don't we? We can't let everything in but to our detriment sometimes we keep everything in or block necessary things out.
Then a storm comes and blows the fence away and we feel naked, even vulnerable and we realize that our fence needed to go.
Discern your fence. Know when it needs to be up and when it needs to come down. In the case of my neighbor, the fence went back up because of her dogs, but I was grateful for the little smidgen of time that I got to view her world. I hope she felt the same about me.
"Some people build fences to keep people out...and other people build fences to keep people in." (Bono, Fences) Discern your fence.
Sometimes fences have to come down so that you can have better access, better relationships, greater insight. Sometimes you need to protect yourself from dogs, or ravenous wolves or people that are trying to hurt you. But neither of these are permanent conditions - be smart for the situation at hand. When a fence is entrenched, it takes a storm to knock it down. There's beauty in the storm; God uses the fences in our lives - whether it is to build them or knock them down for our good. So don't be afraid - let God work.
Discern your fence.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Is your fence a boundary or is it blocking your blessings?