The Fence

by Rhonda, April 20, 2024

We have a sweet, cuddly, fat, spoiled dog that my daughter loves with her whole heart.  But, he's got a personality problem.  He likes to break out of our back yard.  No matter how many times we find a way to block the holes he digs under the fence, he seems to always find another weakness in the perimeter and gives himself a self-guided tour of the neighborhood.  This wouldn't be so bad if he would behave.  But, we weren't blessed with a dog that behaves. 

When he breaks out of the yard, he likes to go through the neighborhood trash, or anything else he can get his nose into.  Trash day is his favorite day because all of the trash cans are near the curb.  He can knock them over and sniff through the contents.  Let me tell you, the neighborhood loves him when he does this, and I have spent too many evenings picking up our neighbor's trash.  

About a year ago, our next door neighbor knocked on the front door with his teenage son.

"I know this is a weird question," he said, "but you haven't seen my son's shoes, have you?"

I looked at his son, standing in his work uniform and his socks.  I immediately chuckled and said no.  But then, I remembered seeing a shoe in the back yard and at the time, I thought it was my son's shoe and he probably left it lying around.  However, when I really thought about it, I realized it was an unfamiliar shoe.

"Wait," I said.  "I think they could could be in the back yard."

They followed me to the back yard, and much to my embarrassment, they were indeed my neighbor's shoes.  The teenage owner of these shoes worked at a fast food restaurant, and my dog loved the smell of those shoes, so he brought them home with him.

That is one of just many terrible experiences with our dog.  There was another instance where he took off, and my daughter and I followed him onto our neighbor's acreage to catch him.  Our neighbor didn't recognize us and called the police.  By the time we got it explained to our neighbor and I gave my name and contact information to the nice police officer, our dog had already come home and was sitting on the front porch when we pulled into the driveway.  I told him I was turning him into a floor rug, but he just wagged his tail at me.

We have a busy road near our home, so it isn't just annoying when he gets out of the yard.  It could be dangerous.  He's not smart enough to look out for ongoing traffic, so he's nearly been hit several times. Given no other choice, he is now under lockdown due to his terrible behavior. We supervise him every time he goes outside, since he poses a threat to the motorists on the road as well as the neighborhood shoes.  He views the fence as his prison, but it is actually there for his protection, since he is unable to navigate the dangers.  If only he understood we are protecting him.  But, he is stupid.

My annoying canine situation got me thinking about what it means to leave the protection of someone who loves you.  As much as I would hate to admit it (and I do hate to admit it), I probably share some spiritual traits with our dog.  I bolt from the safety of God's protection when I think I have a better idea.

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

We can make decisions in our lives that bring us peace.  We can also make decisions that bolt through our protective "fence" and throw us into chaos.  Danger abounds when we make these types of decisions, and we feel the impact of it immediately.

I have a terrible temper.  I blame my red hair, but the truth is my rebellious spirit is really to blame.  I know better than to get worked up over things, rolling them over in my mind, until I'm ready to tell someone off.  Disrespect-fully (is that a word?).

Every time I do this, I'm bolting through my fence.  One would think I would have figured this out before my mid-forties, but I honestly used to think these types of confrontations were necessary to be sure people respected you.  But, this type of behavior doesn't garner respect, and it certainly doesn't display the heart of Christ.

Yet, my temper likes to make an appearance anytime I feel threatened or rejected.  When I fall back into this behavior, I'm dealing with all kinds of fallout.  There's drama in my life, chaos, and resentment.  I have to work at healing relationships.  Let me tell you, life outside of the fence isn't all its cracked up to be.  The grass is not greener and I've found I prefer the still waters the Bible talks about.

Psalms 23:1-4  The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Another way I like to run straight through my fence is by refusing to rest.  God has been very clear with me that I need to take breaks and recognize a sabbath.  My introvert personality requires it.  I was designed for it.  My job requires a lot of hours, so I need to rest and take care of myself.

But, every so often, I decide I know better.  I will have a good time with my friends and my (albeit small) extrovert side decides to plan every weekend from here until eternity.  I need to take the families from Ukraine to a football game (they wouldn't be properly indoctrinated to America if I didn't).  Lionel Richie is on tour and I need to see him sing "Hello" in a stadium full of people.  I need to go to baseball games this summer, and don't forget, I also want to volunteer to help fix up our schools on the weekends.

Let me tell you how this plays out.  I become overwhelmed, overscheduled, and interestingly enough, my temper likes to make an appearance because I haven't had any downtime.  I also end up lying on the couch with a bag of Cheetos wondering why I can't find any peace.  God knew better, but I  blew through the fence and did things my own way.  It results in me getting run over on the highway of life, every time.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I'm not sure God can say it anymore clearly than he does in Isaiah.  His ideas are better than ours.  He knows what we need, even when we don't know.  He sees the bigger picture when we're distracted by small things.  But, we have to choose His ways over our desires.  That's where we always get tripped up.

If you're struggling with chaos in your life and looking for peace, it is worth examining whether you're running through a fence and doing things your own way.  I can tell you from experience, this ends up being true in my life more often than not.  Sometimes I run through the fence and don't realize it until I am dealing with the consequences.  

The amazing thing about our God is that He never closes the gate.  We're always welcome back, and we can always come home.  His love is unconditional and ever-faithful.  He's waiting for us with open arms every time.

That's our God.

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