By Jennifer Dukes Lee If I could lose my salvation, it would have happened the day a rogue pig showed up in our yard. My hands were wrist-deep in dishwater when I saw it out of the corner of my eye—a blur, a moving blob at first. And then I made out the figure as […]
The post Why You Need Good Fences in Your Life appeared first on Bible Gateway Blog.
By Jennifer Dukes Lee
If I could lose my salvation, it would have happened the day a rogue pig showed up in our yard.
My hands were wrist-deep in dishwater when I saw it out of the corner of my eye—a blur, a moving blob at first. And then I made out the figure as it scooted behind the shed, its pink rump shimmying in all its corpulent glory.
This immediately caused alarm for three reasons.
First, the pig was not ours, and it had clearly ventured far from home. Second, while I myself am a pig farmer’s wife, I do not have the advanced pig herding skills that this task would require.
Third, as I surveyed the yard, it was quickly evident that the pig had made use of its rooting instinct. It had uprooted turf and soil hither and yon. Our yard looked like Swiss cheese.
This sent me out the door faster than you can say “pork chop.”
I ran around the back side of the shed to find it digging another large hole in a beautiful patch of grass.
I had the sudden realization that I really had no idea what to do. I was no match for this pig. This wasn’t a charming little Wilbur-type pig. This was a 250-pound beast who was about the right size to become bacon. It was as if the pig knew its days on earth were numbered, because it had quite the devil-may-care level of sass going on. Upon my arrival, the pig turned its snout in my general direction, cocked its head, gave me the side eye, then went back to its task of digging.
So I did what any sensible farmer’s wife would do: I picked up a handful of landscaping rocks. I began hurling the rocks, one by one, at the pig, along with a string of obscenities, for which I have asked—and been granted—forgiveness from our Lord.
My attempts caused a minor disruption in the pig’s plan. It picked up its snout and trotted off, with me chasing behind, hurling more rocks and choice words. Do you recall the moment in Scripture when Jesus sends some demons into a herd of pigs, and they all dramatically plunge off a cliff to their deaths? In my yard that afternoon, I was convinced that one of those pigs had gotten away and had been roaming the earth for the last 2,000-plus years with the sole aim of terrorizing me.
Pig v. Jennifer continued for approximately forever. And then it came to a halt when I made a catastrophic miscalculation. I grabbed a large stick and threw it with such force that a large splinter impaled the side of my hand.
I marched angrily up the side of the hill to remove the splinter, tend to my bleeding wound, take a deep breath, and text the neighbor to come fetch this barbaric, demon-possessed varmint.
The farmer immediately drove over, apologized profusely, and retrieved his animal. I am sure I terrified the poor man when he showed up to find blood streaming onto the driveway from my hand, a deranged look in my eye. We haven’t spoken of it since, though we have exchanged pleasantries a number of times.
Title of this sob story: The Importance of Fences, An Essay.
In all honesty, the farmer—a longtime family friend—had fences. We also have fences. But sometimes, fences give way. Sometimes, they need mending. On a farm, fences are needed to keep some things in and other things out. We know firsthand the damage a trampling herd of stray cattle can do to a planted field—it’s far worse than my Swiss-cheesed yard. Even raccoons can make quick work of a few rows of sweet corn after the sun goes down.
Fences are a way to take care of what we’re growing on the farm.
They are also a way to take care of what you’re growing in your life.
If you have a pet dog, you likely have a way to keep it fenced in. If you have a child, you’re probably familiar with those clumsy safety gates that you have to practically hurdle over in order to access the stairs. If we are wise, we put fences around our families, our relationships, our calendars, our behaviors, our priorities, and our urges when we want to eat every carb in the house.
Don’t mistake fences for walls. Walls can feel closed in and tight. I don’t want you think that fences are the equivalent of crossing your arms across your chest, frowning like a curmudgeonly old man who yells at the neighbor kids, “Get off my lawn!”
Fences aren’t intended to divide. Good fences protect and preserve the beautiful things you’re growing.
Fences communicate your belief that your land holds life worthy of safeguarding.
I’ve had a messy relationship with fences, and I don’t mean just that afternoon with the pig. One area I’ve needed fences is in my penchant to overcommit. I’ve been erecting fences which, if they could take a physical shape, would look like the letters N and O chain-linked together and wrapped around my life.
In this season of life, I’ve said no to more speaking engagements than I have during my decade of ministry. I have declined other opportunities that could have propelled me forward. As a church member, I no longer feel like I’m letting down the Lord if I don’t sign up as frequently to bring snacks for our church’s coffee hour. While I often say “yes,” I have permission to say “no.”
This doesn’t mean I turn my back on ministry, the needy, the hungry, the hurting, the grieving, the committee seat, the next new book idea.
Fences help me see that this is my property and that is not; this is my responsibility and that is not. Fences mean that we don’t give to every charity, but we do give generously to the ones God has purposely placed in our “field.” We support local businesses and local ministries, like our church. It’s small, tucked in between farm fields, but great things grow in small places with old wooden pews and hymnals.
For somebody who wants to run a million miles an hour, fences are a form of self-control. Furthermore, boundaries are biblical.
Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. —Proverbs 25:28
Sometimes, we need others to show us where our fences need mending, or to reveal places where we have no fences at all. Perhaps you could call on a spiritual mentor, a trusted friend, or a counselor to help you see your fences more clearly.
Emily P. Freeman would tell you that we could all benefit from this kind of person, whom she calls a “No Mentor.” She says that ideally, your No Mentor should be someone who makes decisions the way you would want to make them, someone who is straightforward and unapologetic. This person probably has reliable, sturdy fences. “A No Mentor is there to help you feel confident about saying no to the things you really don’t want to do anyway or to help you finally discover your strong, brave yes in the midst of fear.”
Like farmers whose fields are separated by fences, your fences will define where your responsibility ends and someone else’s begins. This is also important as you consider the boundaries required in personal relationships. You can set limits and be a loving person at the same time.
The temptation will be to widen fences, to move the posts out a little further so you can plant more seeds and perhaps produce a bigger harvest. There may well come a time to widen your reach, your scope, your influence. But friend, may I encourage you to let the Lord move the fences, and not the people who are telling you that you need to take it to the next level?
I see you—the girl in high school, who feels pressure to widen the fence posts and figure out what you plan to do with the rest of your life when you’re just trying to navigate the complex world of being a teen.
I see you—the single woman at the restaurant, who feels pressure to find a guy and settle down, even though you are enjoying the beautiful things you are growing on your own.
I see you—the newlywed wife, in your car at the stoplight. Already, people are asking you when you plan to have a baby, but you are enjoying these first sweet years of marriage, and frankly, you’re not sure if parenthood will be a part of your future.
I see you—the mama at the park, who feels the pressure to have another, and maybe two more after that, but you just want to take it easy for a while.
There’s always something more, something out there to be learned, accomplished, grown, achieved—as if widening your fences makes you a complete woman.
A bigger field won’t complete you. Another accomplishment won’t complete you.
A heftier paycheck won’t complete you.
A higher yield won’t complete you.
You are free to see yourself as a complete, whole person, no matter what you’re growing these days.
Fences are a way of taking care of yourself, just as you are, not as anyone else thinks you should be. Make no mistake: it’s your God-given right to simply abide in the place where he has placed you for this moment in history. Rest. Sit still. Tend to the matters at hand. Marvel at the slow growth beneath your feet, just as the Lord surely marvels at the way he is growing you—as a flower gently unfolds on a summer morning, after a long night of rain.
Taken from Growing Slow: Lessons on Un-Hurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Click here to learn more about this book.
Enter a simpler way of living by unhurrying your heart, embracing the relaxed rhythms of nature, and discovering the meaningful gift of growing slow.
We long to make a break from the fast pace of life, but if we’re honest, we’re afraid of what we’ll miss if we do. Yet when going big and hustling hard leaves us stressed, empty, and out of sorts, perhaps this can be our cue to step into a far more satisfying, sustainable pace. In this crafted, inspiring read, beloved author Jennifer Dukes Lee offers a path to unhurried living by returning to the rhythm of the land and learning the ancient art of Growing Slow.
Jennifer was once at breaking point herself, and tells her story of rude awakening to the ways her chosen lifestyle of running hard, scaling fast, and the neverending chase for results was taking a toll on her body, heart, and soul. But when she finally gave herself permission to believe it takes time to grow good things, she found a new kind of freedom. With eloquent truths and vivid storytelling, Jennifer reflects on the lessons she learned from living on her fifth-generation family farm and the insights she gathered from the purposeful yet never rushed life of Christ. Growing Slow charts a path out of the pressures of bigger, harder, faster, and into a more rooted way of living where the growth of good things is deep and lasting.
Following the rhythms of the natural growing season, Growing Slow will help you:
Find the true relief that comes when you stop running and start resting in Jesus
Learn practices for unhurrying your heart and mind every day
Let go of the pressure and embrace the small, good things already bearing fruit in your life
And engage slow growth through reflection prompts and simple application steps
Jennifer Dukes Lee lives on the fifth-generation Lee family farm in Iowa, where she and her husband are raising crops, pigs, and two beautiful humans. She writes books, loves queso, and enjoys singing too loudly to songs with great harmony. Once upon a time, she didn’t believe in Jesus; now he’s her CEO. Find Jennifer at www.JenniferDukesLee.com and on Instagram at @JenniferDukesLee.
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