I have fond memories of my dad singing little ditties as he went about his day. Most were a little tongue and cheek, and all made me laugh. One he often sang, I’m sure to my mom’s delight, was “Don’t Fence Me In”…
“Oh, give me land, lots of land
Under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in”
It came to mind as I was writing this morning about my two golden retrievers and some fences…although I think they are singing “Don’t Fence Me Out.”
I was unaware that golden retrievers are notorious diggers.
I know now.
My backyard is a minefield of break-your-ankle holes that become mud pits when it rains.
My oldest son came two weekends ago to help fence in the worst area so we could fill in holes, regrow grass, and possibly avoid the dust and mud that gets tracked into my home.
It’s completely enclosed with no entry point, except somehow, my dogs keep getting into it when I’m not looking. Never when I stand there and watch to see what they are doing, they won’t even go near it when I stand in it and invite them in. It’s like they don’t want me to know their secret and, for the life of me, I can’t figure it out. I’m debating throwing some treats in there and seeing if they will give up their secret entrance. I’m baffled. And I’m disappointed in myself that my golden retrievers (who aren’t the brightest bulbs in the bunch) have gotten one over on me.
This morning I was throwing the ball for Gunner, our ball-retrieving machine. Several times the ball bounced into the enclosed area. He stood outside it, panting, pawing the fence, and jumping back as if electrified. I’m not buying it.
The fourth time I went to retrieve the ball (who is the retriever in this scenario again?), I thought, surely there’s a spiritual application to this, right? I don’t have it yet. I’m thinking. Waiting for the epiphany.
I always seem to be waiting for something…directions, epiphanies, mechanics, repairmen, children to finish activities, phone calls, appointments, kids to carry laundry upstairs, the grass to grow in my little enclosed space…
Sometimes it seems that waiting is the theme of my life. Surprisingly, I’m finding myself okay with it. Well, at least right this minute. I might not be tomorrow. Probably not. I know that there is a season for everything, a time ordained by God, there is a plan…not my plan, but there is one nonetheless.
The other day I attempted to try to move something in a different direction, and God shut the door… not a slam, but definitely a closing. It wasn’t completely shocking, but I found myself blinking, stepping back a bit, and rethinking things yet again.
I can be like Gunner and Trapper, though. I can search for the way into the place I shouldn’t be just because it looks like that’s where I should be, and I’m pretty sure I’ll like it there.
I had such a strong epiphany that as much as I want to be just where God wants me, I keep trying to manipulate my life into something different. I’ve said I like to be in control before…probably a million times…but I think I haven’t understood until recently how very much I try to manipulate things into being the way I want them to be. Like my dumb dogs, I am determined to get where I want to be, with or without permission, through fences or blockades. I will make this happen.
The thing is, I’m absolutely certain that His way is better than mine, but I cannot deny that, at times, I really struggle to let Him be in control. It feels like I’m in a physical tug-of-war with Him. I can’t seem to let go of my grip and let Him handle things… at least not completely. I hold on with a pinky’s worth of strength, imagining that I’ve got things handled…it’s silly, really. I need to unclench my sweaty little palms and hold them open for what God has for me.
I’m a little like Jacob wrestling God in his fear and loneliness. (Golly, I hope I don’t wrestle until my hip is broken. Enough is broken in my life without that too!) I will wrestle with Him over the timing and the way things happen. I think sometimes I just want something to happen. Let’s get this party started. This nothing changing thing is for the birds. Sometimes I can almost believe something is better than nothing, but life has made it abundantly clear that that is absolutely not true. Something is sometimes nothing I want to happen, and sitting still and trusting God would have been a much better option.
Like my pooches, I can forget that what I have is great. They have a big beautiful yard, and they want to sneak into the little enclosed space full of holes. I wish I weren’t like them. I wish I could see the blessings right where I am and trust God to lead me where He wants me.
Sometimes I wish there was an actual fence blocking my way to places I shouldn’t go or places that just aren’t the best for me. I have decisions to make, and I really and truly struggle to discern God’s will for me and mine. Do I step out in faith and do plan A? Or do I step out in faith and do plan B? I cannot think back over the past ever so many years when one was more obviously right than the other. I always have to step out in faith and pray that the wisdom God promises me is indeed at work within me.
Ultimately, I believe God is more than able to get me where He wants me to be regardless of me. I just need to keep my eyes on Him. Look for what He is doing around me and join Him. Pray with the expectation that God is going to answer. Trust Him that He will lead me. Pay attention. Listen. Be still.
I need to stop trying to get somewhere. I’m where God wants me to be for this moment. And until He clearly shows me to take the next step in any particular direction, I’m staying here. I will resist the urge to get into that fenced-off area and dig holes…because I’m done digging holes that I eventually trip in.
I want to walk with Jesus and trust Him even when I long for something other than what He has given me. I want to trust that His way is best. He wants me to follow Him. He isn’t playing hide and seek with me. He says He will lead me, so I must trust He will.
Okay, that’s not where I thought this blog would go…at all. But, you know, I’m pretty sure I need to be reminded that waiting means I don’t sneak into places I shouldn’t be and that I trust God has prepared a place and plan for me that is just what I need. Maybe He isn’t opening up something because the grass still needs to grow there, and the holes must be filled before I go so I don’t fall in them. Or maybe things in me need to grow stronger and be filled.
My heart is a little like my backyard mud pit. It has some patches that need to be healed and some areas that need to grow stronger so they can trust and love well. I’m happy to stay where the Lord has placed me…well, maybe not always happy, but I’ll choose to trust Him and wait for the next step to be revealed or the fence to come down.
Fletcher, R. & Porter, C. (1934) “Don’t fence me in”.