There are many kinds of fences. The ones I’m most familiar with are the taut wire fences we used on the farm. Wire fence comes in rolls. Fence posts, either steel tri-lobe rods or wooden hedge posts, are set about 6-10 feet apart. The fence is stretched, pulled taut, and secured to the fence posts by wire or fat staples hammered into the hedge posts. It’s a good fence, but one that requires periodic checking and repair.
Every year at about this time, many tune their hearts towards what God may say concerning the coming year. The Holy Spirit nudge I’m sensing this year is “check your fences.” We all have “fences.” Habits, likes, dislikes, acceptances, and avoidances we have built over a lifetime. These fences keep out things that may be harmful and retain those which are desirable or loaded with potential.
Just like physical fencing, our internal fences will breakdown and require repair. Or, also like physical fences, they may need to be moved’ either enlarged or narrowed. So, I see this call to “check your fences” as a multi-pronged effort.
The first effort is reviewing our past determinations and convictions. We often set what I call memorial stones (Joshua 4:20-23) when we’ve had a meaningful poignant encounter with God. These could be life-changing moments where we saw a truth about ourselves and received God’s grace. They may also be moments of direction which set us on a course. Or possibly, a hard life-lesson earned through fires and heart-ache. To check our fences in this way means to reexamine our convictions. Perhaps we’ve let a few things slip. Or maybe we’ve erected a fence that keeps us from forgiving, accepting, or loving others. Maybe we’ve let our priorities shift over time and need to reorder things again with a new purpose.
The second effort is that of right-sizing our fields. Some might say, “there shouldn’t be fences.” Perhaps. But it is impossible for one person or ministry to properly care for all. So, these fences focus our care and efforts in a way impossible without fences. Should our fences be enlarged to hold more or brought in to focus more on fewer? Both are possibilities, and both are a blessing. Yet, this fencing is not one of judging others but focusing on God’s love as He leads us. For some, it means focusing on our family; for others, it means caring for a physical group of people; for others, some other sub-set of humanity. The question is this – Is our fence covering those God has placed in our care?
The third effort is to examine the fence of our faith and practice in Christ. Have we let in something that is foreign to the Word or kept out something the Word of God commends? What is our Golden-Calf? That pet doctrine, teaching, or practice that is either foreign to the Scriptures or elevated beyond its intent and has become an idol. It could even be a past move of God, as seen in the Bronze serpent made at God’s command for healing which became an idol. (Numbers 21:7-9, 2 Kings 18:4) This is perhaps the most difficult of the three fences to check since we are often blind to our failures in this area. It’s easy for me to see the idols others worship, not so easy to see my own.
I honestly don’t know what this means for you. The fences you have are probably different than mine, although there will be some which are the same. Here are some example questions to check our fences – Is Jesus still Lord of my life or do I go my own way more often then I care to admit? Do I strive to live a life of peace in Christ? Do I hear, listen, and obey the nudges of the Holy Spirit? Do I seek first the Kingdom of God? Do I strive to care about others as I care about myself? Have I weakened the fence against addictive temptation and sin that Christ has freed me from? Do I forgive? Am I thankful for others? These are the kinds of questions we must ask ourselves to check our fences and renew our faith and practice in our walk with Jesus.