"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fencing the Free

By Micky Wolf

Stroll through many neighborhoods across this country and you will see neatly maintained and manicured lawns, or various rectangles and islands of flowering plants and shrubs of all size and description. Yet there are occasions when I wonder if our desire to have everything in its place—mulched and trimmed perfection—has not been taken to a bit of an extreme.

Case in point: recently took a walk and noticed a familiar sight of sumptuous red and yellow annuals enveloping the earth along the side of a home. Truly lovely, but couldn’t figure out why a couple of the large clumps of pampas grasses nearby had a decidedly odd shape. Studying the situation for a moment from where I stood at the edge of the street, I noticed the once freely flowing billows of tall, gold, and green slivers and stalks were now being restrained with thin, steel, circular fencing.

Considering the condominium property was maintained by a local nursery, it was obvious this had been done to facilitate the powerful and fast-moving mowing machines and edging equipment that whiz around that area on a regular basis. To be sure, there was no chance of any wayward strands of the grasses falling to the lush, green lawn beneath.

Restraining and restraint…

It goes without saying human beings need to practice self-restraint, or in Christian parlance, self-control. But how many times do we try to ‘unroll’ our own ideas and opinions with little more intention than to use them as barriers—restraints—around other people and their approach to life and living?

We can erect fences, of a human nature, for many reasons, not the least of which is to fend off, or keep at a distance, the fallout from the way others think, feel, or behave. This is especially true when we encounter someone—often as close as a spouse, family member, or friend—who has a different perspective about most anything, from how to organize a grocery list to even believing making one is necessary in the first place. Who can wonder, then, at the contentiousness that can develop when a couple of people or a group of diverse individuals attempt to address some of the more complex issues of being human, or of what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God?

The fences we carry around may not bear much physical resemblance to the roll of metal drawn around the grasses, but nonetheless, they are as restrictive as any physical restraint, maybe more so because we don’t necessarily realize we are being complicit in building them.

The saddest part of being in the business of erecting fences is their potential to detract from the beauty, function, or form of the original design. There is simply no way to restrain or confine a thing or a person to our idea of what that is supposed to look like without the results ending up in disorder of some kind or another.

Don’t fence me in…

If one consequence of a fence is impeding growth, equally unfortunate circumstances create the perfect environment for the development of various deformities as a living organism tries to evolve within the confined space.

For example:

...erecting ideological fences around the way I think, feel, and behave, in an attempt to protect myself from what others think, feel or believe, potentially prevents new or better insight, information, or inspiration from entering into my head and heart.

erecting fences for the purposes of convincing you I know what is best for you when it comes to the choices you want to make, especially if I believe my age, education, life experiences, or spiritual maturity is reason enough to do so, potentially smothers or blocks the light of your spirit to blossom into the being that is uniquely you.

…erecting fences by deciding ahead of time that I presume to know how you will respond in a given situation assumes that because you have a history of doing certain things a certain way, I can be rest assured nothing is going to change, which potentially ends up limiting both of us in our wherewithal to grow in love and relationship with one another.

To be free…

God values ‘free’ to be so significant, He gets things started by giving us the gift of free will, and in embracing the fullness of this freedom, to each make the choice to enter into an agape-love relationship with Him and those He brings into our lives.

Savoring and appreciating authentic freedom, as God intends, is not simply a matter of saying and doing whatever comes to mind in any moment. Quite the opposite. To live truly free is to take full responsibility for one’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and actions. Anything less compromises and diminishes the beauty of God’s gift and the purpose for which He intended it to be used.

Fencing those grasses may facilitate the process of maintaining the lawn and landscaping, but at the very least, at the expense of their loveliness and freedom to shimmer and shine as the breezes whisper through their stately design.

How do I feel when someone tries to put a fence around the way I think or act?

What are some ways I may be attempting to erect fences around others?


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