Tearing down fences

While I was away on Friday driving back and forth to pick up Andrew from that film camp, I got a text message from my husband that said this: “I’m taking down the fence.”

What fence? I responded in my mind, but not with my fingers.

Surely, he doesn’t mean the six-foot fence that surrounds our backyard, keeping people from randomly roaming onto our property.

He couldn’t mean the fence that probably cost many thousands of dollars for the previous owners to build.

Not the fence that has given me great peace of mind when my children are playing in the backyard.

Could he be talking about the fence that might someday keep a hypothetical dog that we have talked about purchasing from potentially running away?

From the day we moved into this house four years ago, my husband has been talking about tearing down our fence. We’ve discussed it several times since then, but I always assumed this was an idea for a project he would work on after the kids had all gone off to college or maybe once we retire. I didn’t know he meant we should take down the fence right now!

When I got home, I walked through the house and straight to the backyard. For the first time, I could see from our deck into the prairie behind our house without anything obstructing my view. It was amazing!

Still, I felt a tinge of uncertainty as the reality set in that the fence was gone. What was making me so anxious?

I’ve been reading a great book the past few weeks by Bob Goff. The book is called, Everybody, Always. In it, Goff tells stories about how he has been convicted in life to try to love everybody.


I often choke back tears as he writes about the woman in his neighborhood that he cared for as she died of cancer. I feel inspired by how he learned to sky dive, just so he could spend more time with his son doing something he loved to do. I get motivated reading about the parade that he organizes in his neighborhood every year, just to create a sense of community.

I listen to his stories and I tell myself that I want to be like that. I want to do stuff like that. I want to live like that.
But then reality sets in, and I realize that what I really want is to live inside a fence.

At the church our family attends (and the place I work), we have four core values, which we call our “code.” One of them is that we want to leave isolation for community. It sounds so simple. So fun. And really like a no-brainer.

The truth is, it’s easier to live in isolation. It’s easier to hide inside a fence. In fact, it’s cozy.

Living in community sounds fun. But then you have to start dealing with reality. People get cancer. Their husbands walk out on them. Their kids do stupid things. When you live in community, you can’t just sit inside your nice fence, pretending you can’t see over the six-foot wooden barricade.

But an amazing thing has happened during the past few days since my husband tore down our fence.

I’ve been mad at myself for holding onto that fence for so long. I can’t believe how much prettier life is now. I can see all of the white flowers that are blooming across the prairie. I have an even better view of the sunset, without having to stand on my tippy toes. When people walk by on the trail behind our house, we wave and yell, “Hello!” I feel silly that we didn’t remove that fence a long time ago. We’ve already spent four years looking around it and through it and over it when we could have been enjoying our beautiful view!

Sure, there’s always the risk that someone I don’t know will meander too close to our yard. There’s a very real possibility that a coyote or fox could run through our yard during the night. And we will probably bother our neighbors at some point with all of the kids that gather in our back yard.

But that’s OK. Our house is so much better this way.

I want to remember that next time I’m tempted to build a fence.


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