The last week of April, my youngest son and I were heading out the door for evening activities at church when a horrendous storm descended upon us with no warning. We all stood watching at the picture windows on the back side of the house when finally my oldest son shouted, “Get away from the window! I think it’s a tornado!”
It took a while before we realized our driveway was completely blocked by a tree. Pieces of other trees were scattered all about our property. We immediately got to work.
Accustomed to microbursts on our property, it wasn’t until I walked my normal route a couple of days later that I realized we weren’t the only ones affected. Debris was piled up by the roadsides.
Little evidence of the storm remains six weeks later except at one home in an adjacent neighborhood, where the fencing rests in scattered waves along the back of the property, rusty nails pointed upward in search of something to cling to. Only recently has it been moved off the sidewalk.
It is the only house lacking fencing along the busy street, which connects only a couple of hundred feet away from the home to one of the busiest roads in our metropolitan area. As I walked by the other night, I found myself thinking, “I certainly would fix that fence pretty quickly if this were my property.”
Barring calamity, fences tend to break where they are most weak and neglected. In our lives, we make choices daily about whether to maintain our spiritual fences or neglect them. And in neglecting them, we become prey to the enemy.
Let me give you an example. We find a show that we really enjoy. It’s funny. It’s clever. So we overlook the sexual humor or the crude jokes. We determine that the entertainment value outweighs the crudeness. Our fence slowly gets broken down, making way for increasingly vulgar content. Before long, we not only enjoy the crudeness but we perpetuate it.
Sometimes a broken fence can be a matter of inappropriate friendships. As a married person, for instance, you have no business whatsoever meeting one-on-one with a member of the opposite gender. Whether it’s a business lunch or a personal meeting, add another person so you don’t stir up trouble. The same rule applies to personal phone calls. As a married person, you don’t need a member of the opposite sex to be your best friend and confidant unless that person is your spouse. Period.
But not all inappropriate friendships involve the opposite gender. Some involve people who drag you down. We’ve all had friends like that – people who delight in making choices that dishonor God, or who have the appearance of godliness but tongues like vipers. Your friends, your family, your marriage – they’re all fair game among such people. If you have people like that in your life, get off at the next exit and never turn back.
That brings me to another kind of fence that we need to keep: one over our mouths. “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips,” the psalmist wrote in Psalm 141:3. That’s not a bad prayer to pray daily. Careless words often start as a result of our own pain, our own need to assert ourselves against those who hurt us. Before long, our tongues are waging warfare as preemptive strikes. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked,” Proverbs 10:11.
We must also guard our thoughts. The enemy will plant an evil thought in our minds, and in our preoccupation with the day at hand, we’re slow to dismiss it. Before long, we’re actually entertaining the thought. Entertaining the thought, if not kept in check, results in acting upon it. It has been put like this: Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character. Basically, you are what you eat. Feast upon sinful thoughts, and you’ll become a glutton for punishment from a jealous God.
Our broken fences also create a hazard for those we encounter along our way. The fallen planks of our bad choices can cause others to stumble or fall. The rusty nails of our neglected paths can even poison the very souls of those who not inoculated through salvation in Christ against eternal separation from God.
Here are just a few fence-building tips from the word of God:
- Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. – Proverbs 2:11
- Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. – Proverbs 4:23
- Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. – Proverbs 7:2
- Then He said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15
- Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. – 1 Corinthians 16:13
- Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. – 1 Timothy 6:20-21
God does not expect you to maintain or even rebuild your fences on your own. Remember that He has given you a helper. “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us,” Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:14.
Ask God to show you the broken fences in your life, and the great Carpenter of your soul will help you rebuild and maintain your boundary lines.