Boundary — a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
I celebrated my 48th birthday this week. It was a good day: full of love, many birthday greetings, a few lovely gifts, and plenty of time for reflection. Among my favorite treats this year were a Hershey Almond bar, a stylus that looks like a pencil, and a new birdfeeder. All three were chosen by those who know me best and know what makes my heart flutter with happiness.
As I was driving, you’ll notice I do a lot of thinking while driving –and some day maybe I’ll look into whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, I was enjoying the landscape of the place I call home. I’ve been driving these same roads for almost 18 years now. I know these fields, streams, woods, and houses. I notice when something changes. In that respect, the damage caused to the land by the tornado of March 2, 2012 was more heartbreaking to me than the damage to my own home.
There are long stretches of field and wood that are balm to my soul. There are fences, of course, but they are “country fences.” Boundaries created to keep something in . . . cattle, dogs, goats, and sheep. They are boundaries we put up because we care. We care about the well-being of the animals and we care about the well-being of our neighbors. These are mostly made of welded wire, barbed wire, and cattle panels. You can see through the boundary. Your eye still takes in glory of creation.
Our little place has just such a boundary. Opal has a huge fenced in yard that comes right off our deck. It protects her from cars, other dogs, wolves, and coyotes. It also protects the man on the bike, our chickens, and the occasional walker. Opal knows that inside the boundary she is safe and so she is happy. She is even happier when the gate is opened and we call her. She knows that going outside the fence is a treat.
So anyway, as I was driving along and thinking about these things, I came upon a new fence. Not a country fence. This was an obstruction — probably 8 feet high, made of boards, and being painted gray. It doesn’t belong. It clearly shouts “Go Away!” It is designed to keep something out. Not because they care about the welfare of their neightbor, but because they either fear their neighbor, or because they believe the land belongs to them alone. Or perhaps they foolishly believe the fence will protect them.
The fence saddens me. Now my eye is distracted by the obstruction. I can no longer gaze out over the field and the woods. It disrupts my drive and my contemplations. Perhaps in time I will learn to ignore the fence. But, I hope not. I believe there is a lesson for me in the fence.
I guess, like Opal, I know I am safe inside my boundaries. My little habits and routines, my faith, my family and friends, all these things provide a sense of safety, of happiness, and of well-being. I also know that sometimes God calls me outside my boundaries. He calls me to the rough and wild places. He asks that I serve him without building a barrier. So the question must be asked, “Am I brave enough to follow with joy and delight or will I build a fence to keep others out?”