A few years ago, our family decided to adopt two beautiful dogs. Our oldest boys were requesting a pet, and they were adamant that they could handle the responsibility. Now, truth be told I’m a cat person. They’re independent and social so you get the benefit of love from a furry friend but they can pretty much look after themselves. No regulating food or walking necessary. My husband, on the other hand, is a dog lover and so he sided with the boys saying it would be a good opportunity for the boys to learn responsibility and how others are dependent on our choices.
We brought the dogs home and the first few weeks were great. The novelty of having them around ensured that they were brushed, fed, walked, cuddled, and cared for. We made sure they felt the love. But we began to notice that these furry kids had a wandering streak, one that compelled them to explore the far reaches of our community. The problem with this was that they loved to go unleashed and seized every opportunity to escape our yard, leaving our children running through every neighbour’s yard trying to chase them down.
We decided that the only way to fix this problem was to put in an underground electric fence. We were certain that this would solve our problem, after all, one of our neighbors had one and his dog stayed within his boundaries. After the expense of buying the system and the labor to put it in the ground, we very quickly learned that the dogs were smarter than we thought. One day, about a day after the fence was installed, one dog couldn’t get away from his wandering ways and so he decided to ‘jump’ it. He started at one corner of our property and we could see right away what his intent was. He began to run, and kept on going, right through the electric force, realizing that once he reached a certain point, he really was free. The other dog was quick to follow, and so were the kids.
After a few years and many attempts to keep those dogs safe in our yard, we made the difficult decision to send the dogs to live on a farm. We didn’t want them to be tied to a tree in the back yard, unable to explore and be free. They had lots of space to run, and although we missed them greatly, they were safe. We had done everything we could do to make them feel loved, safe, and cared for but still they chose to run outside the boundaries. When they went outside, they were putting themselves at risk and our boys at risk, the boundaries were there to keep them safe.
As our children grow we similarly have rules in place that allow them to grow and become responsible while still keeping them safe. We don’t do these things because we hate them and want to make their lives miserable, although that’s usually what they think, we do it because we have wisdom that they don’t and we want to give them a safe ‘yard’ to grow in.
In the Garden of Eden God gave Adam and Eve the boundary of not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He wasn’t doing that to withhold good from them, but to protect them from the evil that would come from it. Unfortunately, they felt the need to go outside the boundary God had set for them, and it cost them greatly. There’s nothing harder as a parent than watching your child decide to go outside a boundary you’ve set for them and learn the hard way that you were only trying to protect them.
There have been times in life when looking at the boundaries God has set for us, we’ve likely felt the compulsion to push them a bit, to see what’s on the other side, like the cartoon I once saw that showed two people standing in the road with what looked like a fence in front of them. One had decided that he didn’t want to be fenced in, he wanted to see what was so good on the other side. The other was saying,
“It’s not a fence, it’s a guardrail” but it was too late because the other had already jumped over and was falling off the cliff that was waiting on the other side.
Let’s not despise the boundaries, fences, or guardrails that God puts in our lives. Let’s embrace them, knowing that everything we need to go on in life is within the spaces God has allowed us to live in. Learn from Adam and Eve’s example that God won’t withhold any good thing from us. If it’s on the other side of the fence, perhaps then it’s not meant for us.