My Daddy always told me that bought experience is the best experience. I understand now what he meant by that. But, I have also learned that being able to learn from the mistakes of others instead of making the same mistakes myself is much easier and less painful than having to learn everything the hard way.
For the last two weeks, we have been working to clear fence rows on some newly rented pasture. Since this property is a few miles away from our farm and, at best, had inadequate fencing, we needed to build a good fence to insure that our cattle would stay on the property and to insure that our neighbors cows would stay on their side of the fence.
It has caught my attention through the years all the variations of fence construction. Some are very elaborate and expensive. Some are basic but adequate. But some, I just look at and say to myself: "What were they thinking?"
I do not necessarily enjoy building a new fence, but when I do build one, I intend to build it so that I will never have to build that same fence twice. Just a routine check, a little maintenance when needed, an annual spraying of undergrowth, and I am done. I had much rather build a new fence than to 'rebuild' an old fence!
The work we have been doing the past couple of weeks has brought to mind several thoughts about fences, both spiritually and physically. We spent a good day and a half meeting with neighboring land owners and fighting our way through briars, downed trees, and some very thick Privet hedges trying to find the original fence rows that were the actual property lines. In doing so, we stumbled and tripped over at least 2, and up to as many as 5 additional fences that had been put up through the years for various reasons. In most cases, the Privet and briars were never addressed, so when they got too thick, another fence was just installed around it.
These overgrown and hidden fences and fence posts varied anywhere from 2-8 feet apart and some were 50-60 feet from the original property line fences. Some of these hidden fences were made from net wire, some from barbed wire, and some from various sizes of electric fence wire, but all were interwoven with the undergrowth along all four borders of the property. We had to find the old fences and fence posts and pull them out with the tractor before Edwin could come in behind us with the brush and tree cutter.
I do not remember Privet Hedge being a problem in southeast Alabama when I was younger and am not sure long it has been here, but I am absolutely convinced that it has to be part of God's curse upon the earth. When it comes to fence rows, I believe that Privet had to originate from the depths of hell itself! The Privet starts off as just a few little leafs on a small insignificant bundle of a bush. It even smells sweet as honey when it blooms in the spring. Within a year, if left untreated, it will be over head high and will be so intertwined with your fence that it is virtually impossible to get it out without tearing the fence down with it.
Another thing I have learned through the years is that a fence is only as strong as its weakest point, is only as high as its lowest point, and is only as low as it highest point. We like to use high tensile electric fencing on our farm. It is 200,000 psi and has a minimum breaking strength of 2,000 lbs. We have had many cars run off the road and drive through our wire, but it just almost never breaks. The T-posts may be ripped out of the ground, but the wire stays intact.
One thing we noticed on the rental property and have learned on our own farm, is that no matter if high tensile electric fence with a breaking strength of 2,000 lbs, or heavy gauge barbed wire with a breaking strength of 950 lbs is used to construct the permanent fence, when it is broken, it is much easier to mend if you use a lighter gauge wire that is easy to pull and twist to connect the broken wires. The problem is that these smaller gauge lighter wires, often have a breaking strength of only 250 lbs. No matter how strong the other 99.99% of the fence is, the overall fence is no stronger than the small spot where the lighter wire was used to mend the stronger wire. When that section of fence is hit, it is coming down.
I look at God's will and His best for our lives as boundaries or fences that keep us from straying too far to either side. As we stay within His boundaries, life is so much easier and rewarding. We learn where to set these boundaries as we study God's Word and as we learn to recognize and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit who both guides us and convicts us when we are tempted to stray.
We often face temptations that are so alluring, that we convince ourselves that life would be better and we would be happier if we would just wandered through that one vulnerable part of the fence that God instructed us to put into place. The fact is that these fences in our lives are for the exact purpose of protecting us from all the evil and hurt that we face when we try to live outside of His will for our lives.
This analogy breaks down only if we see God's pasture as being small, harsh, repetitive, boring, overcrowded or too constraining, when in fact, His pastures where we are to live are vast and have all of the provision, excitement, enjoyment, splendor, fulfillment and beauty that we could ever hope for. Still, because of our sinful nature, the grass often appears to be a little greener on the other side of the fence--until we get there and learn the truth.
As long as we stay within the boundaries that God has set for us, we find that He is always faithful to meet all of our needs and only there can we find true contentment, peace, hope, provision, happiness, joy, excitement, safety and enjoy right relationship and peace with Him, with ourselves and with others.
When we build strong fences for our lives within God's boundaries, on His property lines, we will always find ourselves living within His will. He knows us, He knows His pastures and He has walked every acre of it and has insured that everything we need is there when we need it to live a fulfilled and productive life. He walks with us and He removes all the noxious weeds that would do us harm. We can live in peace and without fear inside His pastures because He insures that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He insures that we are free from the deadly attacks of the enemy as long as we stay where we belong.
In God's pastures He gives us much freedom, but He also gives us responsibility. Just as Adam and Eve were charged with taking care of the garden, He charges us to keep our fences up and well maintained. Just like the Privet, sin will try to creep into our fence rows. It will at first seem insignificant and will even produce a sweet aroma, but if allowed to stay and flourish, it will soon take over our lives and we will lose sight of our boundaries. The more the Privet grows, the more of our pasture it takes away and easier it is for an unseen enemy to come over or through our fences and attack us. If sin is not dealt with, it will eventually overcome us and we will find ourselves overwhelmed and seemingly alone and alienated from God and from others.
We all, like sheep and cattle are prone to wander and have gone astray. It is just our nature. But, our wandering will always cause us and others who love us, pain, fear, isolation, grief, and disappointment. It will always cause separation from right relationship with the very God who created us in His own image and Who has a wonderful plan for our lives that lasts for all eternity!
God's Word and the Holy Spirit will warn us if are tempted and will convict us when we sin, so that we can repent and come back to where He wants us to be and where we rightfully belong. We all need fences in our lives that both keep us within His will and keeps the enemy from entering into our lives where He has no rightful place. We need to be constantly checking our fence rows to see where it is too low or where it is too high. We need to insure that when we identify a broken or a weakened spot in our fence that we confess and address it right then and ask the Holy Spirit to mend it so that it is as strong as new. If we just try to overlook it or patch it up through our own efforts, the enemy will come in like a thief at that weak spot to try to destroy us.
God gave us fences to keep us safely within His will so that He can care for us, provide for us, and have fellowship with us. He also gave us fences to keep the enemy out so that he does not have opportunity to destroy us.
So where in your life is your fence down? Where does sin have a Privet Hedge type chokehold on you that is obscuring God's boundaries causing you to be unsure of whether or not you are truly living in God's will for your life? God knows that Satan's goal is to destroy you and to destroy your witness. Confess your weaknesses to God, ask Him to forgive you, and turn away from your sin and God will lead you back into His safe pastures. He loves you with an everlasting love!