Are you ever frustrated when you can’t solve the whole problem?
Anyone who’s grown up on a ranch or farm (like me) knows there’s always animals to feed, pens to clean, and fences to fix. Animals are like toddlers in this regard. You child-proof your house, then turn little Johnny and Susie loose to discover everything you missed. Farm critters will find and exploit every weakness in a fence, usually on a Sunday morning when you’re on your way to church.
Many of the Iowa farm fences I grew up with were originally built by my great-grandfather as far back as 1914. Over the decades they were expanded by my grandfather and great-uncle. When my Dad began farming in the 1950’s, he added to those boundaries.
When I’d be dispatched to find where the hogs got out I may find a hole in a fence whose corner anchors were sunk, wire stretched, and posts driven by three generations before me. In fixing the fence it was common to see evidence of previous repairs. Extra wire wrapped. Nails driven and bent. Staples pounded into wood. The work of hammers, pliers, and Vice-Grips over sixty years.
The placement and construction of the fence may not make sense to me. I could scratch my head and wonder why they put it here and why they made it out of wood instead of wire. Or wire instead of wood. But I couldn’t go back to the beginning and build it over again. My job was to repair the hole.
When it comes to the people in our lives it’s frustrating when we can’t fix the whole fence.
The student in our class who does good work in spite of living in a home full of anger and dysfunction. The co-worker, excellent in her job, yet poor in the decisions of who she dates. The extended family member we love so much who can’t stop dancing with his demons.
We want to fix the whole fence. But we can’t.
The fences we see have corner posts that were sunk long ago. We had no say in the design or placement. We scratch our head and wonder why they they built it the way they did. The temptation is to distance ourselves. To say, “I can’t make decisions for them.” Or, “It’s not my place to say anything.” It’s easier for us to walk away and leave them to patch their own hole.
No, we can’t fix the whole fence. But we can drive a good nail.
When we speak a word of truth into their current problem, we’re driving a good nail.
When we’re honest about our own struggles, we’re driving a good nail.
When we show them a life of integrity, we’re driving a good nail.
When we model unconditional love and acceptance, we’re driving a good nail.
When we point them to God, we’re driving a good nail.
We didn’t build the fence. But we can help them patch the hole. A fixed fence is a good boundary. It keeps what’s inside from running wild. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
In life, as in farming, there’s always fence to fix.
Do your part by driving a good nail.
Todd A. Thompson – One Eye Out
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