Fenceless Gardens are Fruitless

Just read this quote on Facebook:

“Boundaries keep the things you want in your life IN, like: love, joy, hope or peace. Boundaries will also keep OUT of your life what you do not want, like: disrespect, fear, hopelessness or anxiety. Boundaries help protect your priorities. Boundaries communicate value.” – Danny Lee Silk

It makes sense if you think about it. Boundaries are like fences around gardens. The fence protects the garden and allows it to flourish. In the early stages, only those who want to help weed and water should be allowed inside the fence. When the produce is ripe, plenty of people are welcome – with an invitation – to come and pick some of the harvest! However, they must enter through the gate and respect the rules. Those who pick too many tomatoes and trample on the cauliflower are asked to leave. Those who jump the fence sometimes get a uniformed escort out. 🙂

God has been instructing me (for about four years now!) on how to build my fence and establish my boundaries. Building fences is tricky.

Tall, solid fences make great barriers but often are too segregating. They lure outsiders to try and peek through the narrow cracks, which only offer a distorted view of what is really happening on the inside.

Picket fences are cute but sometimes too short. Wide gaps between fence boards often let in unwelcome creatures.

A chain link fence is the way to go. It provides a solid source of defense but also allows a nice view inside. Passersby can see all that is inside the fence – there is nothing to hide, and they can also see that everything inside has a value; it is growing while being protected and nurtured.

You’d think after 42 years I would automatically just know how to build a great chain link fence. You would think that by this time in my life I would know what my boundaries look like and what valuable fruits are growing inside, but it’s only been in the last couple years I’ve actually been able to figure that out! I’ve been learning how to build that fence, a few links at a time, and how to point out to people the “No Trespassing” sign hanging on the front gate.

Some people just can’t read. God has shown me that it’s OK to tell these people that they are not welcome inside the fence. In fact, God has shown me that I not only have his permission to ask these individuals to leave, but that he commands it! I have his full blessing to whip out my pointy mama finger, aim it right at that sign and sternly insist, “No trespassing beyond this point!”

I was never able to do this before God showed me my value. I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Plus, I also have this ember of light inside of me that glows eternally with the belief that all people have a decency. I lived my life firmly believing that if I gave all people the benefit of the doubt they would gently blow on this ember, billowing it into a burgeoning flame. That’s the fairytale.

It’s like planting a fenceless garden in the middle of a petting zoo.

Thankfully, though, when I decided enough goats had nibbled their fair share of my cabbage crop, I was humble enough to ask God for the right tools. He not only granted my request, but he also threw in a truckload full of building materials and several fruit trees!

I was suddenly surrounded by people who saw the value of my potato plants and were enthusiastic to help me build a fence around them. Finally, people who understood the rules and importance of boundaries! Hallelujah! They not only respected the boundaries, they EXPECTED the boundaries!

Just a couple months ago, I had to go to one of my co-workers and say, “Hey, I did not appreciate you doing this … ” (OK, those were not my exact words.) I fully expected a full-blown defensive to rear its ugly head … because that is what I am used to. Had I had this conversation with a person with whom I had drawn no boundaries, my glowing ember would have not only been crushed, it would have been spit upon, damned to hell and beaten to a flattened mass of faintly-smoking ashes.

But that did not happen. Woo hoo! My friend simply listened, took a deep breath, and said, “Oh gosh, I did not mean to make you feel that way. I understand where you’re coming from. Please accept my apology.” Hug. Hug. Smile. Smile. Still friends. Better friends even.

God has been challenging me more and more with these conversations. More than that he has been placing people in my life who accept my boundaries and respect me more when I point my mama finger at the no trespassing sign and firmly insist, “No trespassing beyond this point!”

Just the other day I had an open conversation with a friend, and I truly expected to hear the words, “We probably should not be friends anymore.” Instead, I heard, “I’m glad we can talk openly with one another about anything.” Hug. Hug. Smile. Smile. Still friends. Better friends even.

This boundary thing is like Miracle Grow! I can’t wait to see what my garden looks like next year. All who are willing to weed and water are welcome inside the gate.

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