Some years ago, as part of a family holiday, we drove along the road from Mildura (Victoria) to Broken Hill (outback New South Wales). There were many interesting things to look at as we drove, including the occasional emu and kangaroo watching us drive by.
I was especially intrigued to observe the continual fencing lines running alongside the road. It is not an unusual sight in country Australia but what struck me on this occasion was the lack of any indication of who belonged to the fences. There were no signs on any homesteads or farmhouses in the flat bush land that sprawled either side of the roadway. There was a periodic dirt track that led off the main road into the horizon and a random letterbox every now and again but no other hint that the fences protected the property of anyone in particular.
Fences define boundaries. What belongs to me and what belongs to others. I started thinking about how we define our spaces in life. In the backseat on this driving adventure had another example of defining areas with three children and their elbows! Imaginary lines were drawn outlining precisely where other’s body parts were allowed and not allowed to cross. Many boundary disputes needed to be settled as the hours went by.
As I thought about boundaries in the community I realized that fifty years ago our neighbourhood fences were lower in height and made of more transparent materials like cyclone fencing. We used to live on our front verandas, greeting those who passed by, allowing us the opportunity for open conversations with those in our community.
These days we have trees we can plant along our fence lines called ‘Neighbours be gone’ and we live in our backyards, only socialising with those we choose to invite behind our secure boundaries. And then we wonder why we have generally lost the sense of community.
What damage do we do if we live our lives behind and within fences? What opportunities for growth and interaction do we miss if we don’t allow others to cross the borders we set and speak into our lives?
In the book of Proverbs in the Bible we read that, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” There is much to be learned from each other, when we allow that interaction to occur.
Even after our many back seat boundary disputes it was truly divine to witness those moments of blessing between siblings as they enjoyed conversation along the way.
May I encourage you to not be so quick to erect those fences or to solely live behind them. Allow others to sharpen your character (and you theirs) in the journey of life.