In a time long ago, we would begin the task of walking the pasture fence checking for breaches and rickety fence posts in need of replacement. We would check for broken barbed wire and fractured insulators that carried the electric fence. Ultimately, the electric fencer would be plugged in so that we could test the electric output. All this preparation was necessary for the initial release of our black angus cattle in the springtime. They had been housed inside the barn all winter and were bit frisky come early April. So, the integrity of the cow was most often gauged by the integrity of the fence and vice versa.
I can remember watching one young steer come blazing out the barn door one spring day and ran right through the fence like it was crepe paper. The electric shock seemed to only energize an already excited cow. For the most part, the fence was fine and only because we maintained it and made sure it was strong and the electric fencer would give a wake-up call to any cow coming too close to the boundary between grazing and danger.
Later this morning, I will travel to another town to learn how to inspect the fence protecting my heart and mind. Boundaries training is essential for anyone, but especially for clergy. We interact with many people in a day's time and those conversations and meetings must have protections built in to keep indiscretions from occurring. Having strong boundaries around the perimeter of my heart and mind keeps me on the path God has intended. The electrical charges remind me when I venture too close to the edge of an interaction. Integrity of the the person is only as strong as the integrity of the fence and vice versa.
Perhaps on a grander scale, our nation and the people of the world might inspect the fences that surround their hearts and minds. Apparently, many people seem to run wild with relationships and their unfettered excitement crashes into others with brute force. Is there no end to the work involved in fence inspection? In a word, "No!" Keeping safe distances and respecting boundaries would change the condition of our world greatly. We could live beside each other and know that the other person would not crash into our property and infringe on us any sooner than we would do the same. The integrity of our relationships would only be as strong as the integrity of individual's desire to maintain respectful boundaries.
I no longer have to walk around the pasture fence. I no longer have to wrestle with barbed wire. I don't have to replace broken porcelain insulators and electric fence testing is no longer needed. I no longer wield a pitchfork to fend off excited cows charging the fence. (I also don't chase cows out over the hillside either.) The cows have long since left the farm.
I do guard my heart and value fences placed around my heart and mind. I value the integrity of both places so that my wife, my family, and my church understand where I am physically, mentally, and spiritually.
"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." (Proverbs 4:23-27, NIV)
Go ahead and check your fence today and make sure it is in good repair. It will serve you well.