Lessons from a fence build
This past weekend, our family decided to begin the journey of putting up a fence in our backyard. We simply wanted to keep our dogs from defecating on our neighbor’s lawn, oh, and keep our kids in too. But not to worry, the kids don’t have the same problem as our dogs.
In preparation for the fence build, we did a lot of research: we consulted our town bylaws, checked property reports, ensured that Alberta First call, marked gas, power and telephone, then we measured and and poured concrete footings. We then dug out our corner posts and leveled the fence line, putting in posts and cementing them and then we struck or braces into place. It was a lot of work and currently we are about half done the project. In all my research, what I failed to do was consult our neighborhood. I missed a big cultural piece of rural living.
What was striking to me was the number of neighbors who came over and asked, “Why are you building a fence?” As I explained some of the reasons why we decided to build, I realized that the questions they asked had more behind them. The little old lady in the back alley said, “I won’t be able to see the kids play outside anymore” and “Don’t you want to see me anymore?” Other neighbors, moaned that our fence was too big, another said, “It is too bad that we have to put fences up in our neighborhood.” It is just wonderful having all the openness.
I realized that even though I have lived in our neighborhood for seven years, I am not a very good missiologist. I had failed to see that (for at least the older generation), fences give the impression of “mine” and not “ours”, “isolation” and not “community.” As I reflected, I realized that we had made a terrible mistake, our fence serves our own needs but has now become a barrier to community.
I can’t do much now that it is half finished but I can use this oversight to intentionally build incarnational ministry in spite of a fence. The plan is to have them over for a BBQ and enjoy our fence. I am so glad for the gospel and the the Holy Spirit’s gentle reminder that it is not about me, it is about others.
John 1:14 in The Message says,
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
Jesus moved into the neighborhood but He never built a fence. Our master builder came and dwelt among us, moved into our neighborhoods and cared about what mattered to us- generous inside and out, from start to finish.