When we moved into our home more than 20 years ago there was a 4-foot-high chain link fence set in concrete edging around the front yard. The previous owners had a dog and no landscaping. I didn’t like the fence, and we didn’t have a dog, but the fence was a good backdrop for my elementary-age kids to kick the soccer ball around the front yard.
I spent the next several years covering up the fence – honeysuckle on one side of the gate and a climbing rose on the other side. I wanted an attractive wrought-iron fence that would fit with our 1920’s bungalow, but it always seemed too expensive as over the years we dealt with more important things like the furnace and plumbing.
Finally, when those elementary school kids grew up and went away to college, I got the fence I wanted in my front yard – after more than a decade of cover-up! I kept honeysuckle on one section of the fence, and the climbing rose continues to flourish on another section. By then the torn-up grass that had been a tiny soccer field was mostly replaced by low water perennials and groundcovers, with one small oval of grass. The city maintains acres of grass in a large park a block away, so, as my husband points out, “You mow with your shovel.” I’ll do another blog some day on my lawn philosophy in arid Colorado.
So why even have a fence?
My fence is now an attractive boundary around my front yard. Rather than spikes at the top, as some wrought-iron fences have, there is a circle design. Not a “stay away” fence, but a “look into the garden” invitation. But still, it is a fence, a boundary. Why didn’t I just tear down the ugly fence and go fence-less?
Having a fence gives me something to garden against – it provides space for a garden full of flowers: candytuft, coneflowers, penstemon, iris, salvia, blanket flowers, grasses and more. I have plants of all heights, framed by a low fence. The fence gives definition and dimension to my garden. Tall plants can lean up against the fence, providing stability on windy days. Fences and boundaries can be beneficial, not just exclusive.
Much like the fence in my front garden, boundaries can provide space for my soul to flourish. While I may sometimes act like a toddler when I hear a “no” – limitations can provide personal flourishing. And establishing a boundary opens up all the space within that boundary for my enjoyment.
For example, my mind can move toward negativity, or fear, or comparison, or anger – all which exhaust my soul. Or I can choose pleasant, positive boundaries for my thoughts. In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul gives the benefit of a beautiful flourishing thought life: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
Deciding to “fix” my thoughts is to keep them within a boundary, a fence. And it’s a good and beautiful fence, within which there is much room for my soul to grow and bloom. That’s why I choose to live life with good fences.
Note – as I was looking through old pictures, I had trouble finding pictures of the old fence – it wasn’t very picture-worthy. But here’s one showing what a good sport grandma was to play with the kids when she visited – she’s throwing a ball on the sidewalk just outside the fence – before there was much landscaping: