The year we moved into our current home, it was in the middle of July. One day as I was washing dishes in front of the kitchen window, I again noticed rabbits playing around in the yard and squirrels running up into the trees. There were several different types of birds that made their nests in the many trees around our property. We would also see deer in the evenings coming into the yard. I appreciated all of the beautiful flowers in full bloom the previous owners had planted. There were plum trees, fig bushes, pomegranate trees and muscadines also bearing fruit. I felt like we had our own little Garden of Eden. Until the next summer.
The next summer we decided to plant a small garden. My husband worked hard to prepare the ground. We planted the seed and kept it watered. I was very excited when we began to see our various plants beginning to grow. The bigger they got the more excited I became at the prospect of having fresh vegetables to prepare. But then those same cute, sweet little rabbits I had enjoyed watching so often began enjoying our garden themselves. We also soon discovered that there were raccoons around when our corn stalks started getting pulled over. The deer seemed to enjoy the okra plants the most as the tops of those would get eaten.
We tried several times to plant different things. Blackberry bushes that we set out didn’t last many months and even blueberry bushes were eaten down – well, at least the ones the lawn mower didn’t get. We kept trying and hoping that the next time would be different. That maybe the animals would have mercy and leave some of the plants for us to enjoy. That didn’t happen.
But then we had an “aha” moment. Fencing. My husband had some wire fencing so we began putting it around the things we would plant. Sometimes we used short fencing for the things that rabbits would eat. For the things that the deer liked to munch on we would use taller pieces of fencing. When we no longer had our dog, we even put the chain link dog lot around some new plum trees we sat out. Those efforts to protect our plants paid off as we began harvesting the vegetables and fruits that were allowed to grow without the threat of the “enemy.”
I got to thinking one day as I was picking the food out of our little garden how well the simple solution of putting up the fence had worked. Of course, even after the fence was up we still had to pay attention and tend to the plants. We couldn’t just leave them to take care of themselves. We had to water them when we didn’t have enough rain. We had to spray the plants when we saw signs of damage from insects. But with the work and attention we gave it, we were able to reap the benefits.
All of these things mentioned can also be applied to our spiritual lives. As we live our daily lives we are surrounded by things that can hurt us in our effort to live for Christ. Things that look innocent and harmless to begin with can turn out to be things that eat away at our potential growth. Once we recognize those problems for what they are, we have choices to make. We can continue to try to live right without making any other changes. We can keep saying, “Maybe this time will be different.” We think we can fend off our enemies even though we keep living right there among them.
There is another option. We can place fences, or boundaries around ourselves. We can realize that just trying to do the same thing over and over is not helping. We have to make a change. Some issues that are not so big, areas that are not a threat to our growth, may only need some small adjustment in our walk. Other areas that are our biggest threats, or temptations, require us to put up larger fences. It’s difficult when we have to cut ourselves off from the familiar things or people we have always associated with, but sometimes it’s necessary for our own good.
When we finally make those decisions and put up the boundaries in the areas where they are needed, we can then begin to see positive growth. Without the threat and distractions of the outside world, we can thrive and begin to produce the fruit we were designed to produce. But even inside the fence, there’s work to do. It’s not just enough to put up the boundaries, but we have to do the things that aid in our growth, such as reading our Bible, spending time in prayer and with other believers.
This is a simple solution. Putting up the boundaries works and is what is needed for our own good. But is it easy? No. It takes commitment and work. It takes an intentional effort to guard our hearts and minds by staying close to our Lord.
One thing I didn’t mention. What about all of the fruit trees and vines that were already producing on our property when we moved in that the animals were not harming? All of those plants were already well established. They didn’t have wire fencing around them, but they had been there for years. They were tall enough and strong enough to be able to resist what little bit the animals tried to eat off of them. I think it was because of their maturity that the “enemy” couldn’t harm them as much as they did the young plants.
Once we have set those boundaries in our lives that allow us to grow and mature in Christ, we still have to live in the world but we will be established in the things of God. This doesn’t mean we can then let down the boundaries. It means that we will be stronger so that when the enemy does attack, and he will, we will be able to stand strong.
It’s amazing how much putting up a little fencing affected our satisfaction. All of the work paid off and we are reaping the harvest. So now, I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll go put up a little more fencing.