Fences and gates have a specific purpose. They keep unwanted people out of your yard while keeping people safe inside a confined area. Or, as dictionary.com says:
- a movable barrier, usually on hinges, closing an opening in a fence, wall, or other enclosure.
- an opening permitting passage through an enclosure.
- a barrier enclosing or bordering a field, yard, etc., usually made of posts and wire or wood, used to prevent entrance, to confine, or to mark a boundary.
- Informal – a person who receives and disposes of stolen goods.
In my “mommy mind” a fence has this definition:
- A necessary enclosure to keep bad guys out.
- An even more necessary enclosure to keep my kids from running down the street in PJ’s or worse.
- A tool to keep the dog in the yard so I don’t have to walk him.
- Informal??? Call it what it is – Thief or accomplice of one.
Ok, for those of you who know me, meaning, you’ve been over to my house and really know me, you’ll know I’m just kidding. I don’t walk the dog – my husband and kids do. Not to mention, my kids play in our front yard ALL the time in PJs. And we don’t have a fence. But if we did, that’s what my reasoning would be. One more thing… wouldn’t it be interesting to have REAL definitions in the dictionary? Most of our neighbors do have a fence, so we are semi-surrounded by that wonderful barrier. Just as wonderful as it can be, it is still a barrier. So what happens when our kids want to play with our backdoor neighbors? BEFORE, there were a few choices. They could
- A. walk down our street, along an somewhat busy street then up the neighbor’s street
- B. climb a ladder into the backyard of different backdoor neighbors into a yard where huge Dobermans and German shepherds lived with just as big mounds of…ahem… or
- C. cut through an elderly lady’s yard without her knowing and showing complete lack of respect and integrity since we gave our word we wouldn’t do that.
All of the choices were not ideal, until Hurricane Ike blew through (remember?) and provided an unexpected solution. Actually, it blew down the fence. Well, not enough to destroy it, but enough to create an awkward, uneven, unstable barrier. There were lots of commands “Don’t touch the fence!” But it stayed for awhile longer. Until the day our neighbor’s repaired it. When they did, they built a gate. A gate in the fence to connect our families. It wasn’t just a let’s save the kids from having to walk through a mine field or down a busy street type of gesture. It was an invitation. An invitation that said, “We are always just a few feet away. You are welcome to join us in this journey of life.”
Now before you picture us having BBQ’s and swim parties every week, we don’t. In fact the gate is used far too infrequently. But it’s there. It has come in handy when we needed something done in our house while gone on a vacation. It has been used to share books. Our family has provided meals during sickness. Broken dryer? Go through the gate. The gate even provided a 6 A.M. wake up call for walking buddies to gather strength – physically, mentally, and spiritually.
A few weeks ago, we opened the gate for our families to share a meal. After dinner, the conversation wasn’t “How about them cowboys?” Ok… so it was, but then AFTER that, they looked into our eyes and said, “So what’s really going on? How are you doing – REALLY?” That is friendship. Well, I have quite a few friends who wouldn’t ask such a question, so it’s more than friendship. It is Jesus in community. Going from “We are neighbors; we are here” to “We are living as neighbors, through this journey of life, in whatever way we can.” That is living life together – stepping through the gate in the fence.
Building bridges or gates in fences will do no good unless you walk across or through to connect.
My challenge to you today: Build a bridge or gate in the fence and take the first step to live life together with another family.