We have a fenced in back yard. It wasn’t that way when we purchased our home seven years ago. A privacy fence ran the length of the southern edge of our yard and the rest of the yard was open. Our poor pooch, Elvis, had to be tethered to a runner that ran from our tulip tree to the garage so he wouldn’t escape, or worse yet, attack anyone who dared walk down the alley separating our house from our neighbors. After we started having children, we wanted to install a fence for them and for our dog. I wanted a nice, tall, white privacy fence. It isn’t that I don’t like people but we live on a noisy, busy street and I liked the idea of creating a more intimate, private space. In the meantime, my father-in-law was able to salvage the chain linking from his neighbor’s fence, free of charge. My in-laws offered to purchase the gates and poles and other miscellaneous hardware necessary to fence off our yard. So, we could spend several hundred dollars on the pretty, white, private fence I wanted or we could have a shorter, non-private but free fence. We took the free fence and I consoled myself with the fact that at least part of our yard was enclosed by the neighbor’s privacy fence. We thanked God for the gift of the fence that kept our children (and dog!) safe.
That was three years ago. We have different neighbors, now. They are a nice family and I feel like we have a good relationship with them. A few weeks ago, Jay, the father in the family next door, casually mentioned to my husband that they are planning to remove their privacy fence. It’s in disrepair and is beginning to show signs of rot around the posts. He knows that we rely on the existence of their fence to keep our dog and children enclosed in our yard and wanted to find out when we would be able to install our own fencing so they can remove theirs. It so happens that we have enough leftover chain link to run the length of the southern portion of our yard. We just need to purchase a bit of concrete and a few more poles. Charlie came home from his talk with Jay feeling pretty good about the conversation and the project.
I listened to the news and tried to stay upbeat about it. I kept reminding myself that the Lord had already provided almost everything we needed for the project and what a blessing it was to have kind neighbors. After all, they could have simply removed the fence without any warning. But, in my heart, I was upset. I like the privacy fence. I like knowing that when I’m playing in the yard with my kids, no one is watching me or them. I like that I can let the baby run around in her diaper or that the girls can strip down to their birthday suits after playing in the pool or sprinkler and their modesty isn’t compromised. I like sitting in a lawn chair in the shade, Bible in lap, feet propped up, knowing that I can pray aloud and no one is listening or watching me spend time with my Lord. I guess I felt like something was being stolen from me and my family. A sense of solitude or something.
It’s been bugging me for a couple of weeks. Off and on, I would think about it and stew about it. Then, yesterday, Ashley, our neighbors’ eleven-year-old daughter, came by to play with the girls. She was a welcome sight because I needed to finish up dinner and I knew she could keep an extra eye on the girls while I ducked into the kitchen to get things ready. She came into the kitchen for a drink of water and said, “It’s going to be cool when we put the new fence up. Then, I can see you guys all the time instead of having to come all the way around the house to see what you are doing.” In my head, I thought, “Oh great, here we go. Thanks for the reminder, Ashley.” She continued, “It’s really fun over here, not like at my house. You guys are always talking about Jesus and stuff and you guys really, really like Him.”
Whoa. I had totally missed what God was doing. It hit me right between my eyes like a big, fat, spiritual two-by-four. God wasn’t taking away my privacy. He never wanted my life to be private at all. He is removing a wall that is keeping others from seeing how He works in our family. He is giving our neighbors a front row seat to see the most amazing show on earth: our family poured out for Jesus. Oh sure, He still expects modesty and decorum from us, but we should be living in such a way that it doesn’t matter whether we’re in plain view or hidden–He is still glorified. The thing is, I wanted that privacy so badly. I wanted a break from the world and from it’s inquisitive stares and questions. I wanted a place we could retreat to as a family. But, God wants me to invite others into our home and our backyard. He wants to put His people on display and say, “Look, world! This is how I take care of My people. This is how I show my love. This is how you, too, can walk through this life in peace and truth.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus commands us, when we receive the Holy Spirit, to be His witnesses throughout the earth. It isn’t an option. We are compelled by His love for us and our love for Him and as an act of worship to be His witnesses. So, when He gives us a wide open door or a torn down fence, it’s our privilege to be the arms and feet and hands and face and heart of Christ to whoever is on the other side. We can’t keep Christ private! We can’t keep what He is doing behind closed doors and tall walls and shadowy fences because those things make us feel safe and secure. Our world and our country and our city and even our neighbors are literally dying to know the character of the One who can save.
So, later this month, we’ll be tearing down a fence. Pray for us as we walk out our life in the sight of others. May it glorify our sweet Savior. And, may it give us the courage to tear down other “fences” that might be keeping others from knowing Him.
Thank You, God, for tearing down this fence. I pray that You will be glorified. Help me to remember why You want our lives to be laid bare for others to see. Give me a heart that wants what You want. In Jesus’ name. Amen.