The rusty metal fence was here when we bought the house. A defining line running the perimeter of our small property.
I never thought much of it, but I've been thankful for it.
The enclosure creates a safe and defined area for my kids to play. In a world that often feels scary and out of control, this fenced in backyard offered their first tastes of freedom.
Fences offer us freedom and limits. Without them we wander around unrestricted, yet unsure.
I see the need for a fence in my own life. A boundary to help define me. A simple piece of wood threaded into the eye of another is all I need to see where I end and you begin.
For a few months I have been stockpiling the wood. Posts and split rails of cut Hemlock stacked up high while I learn how to build a fence of my own.
I smell the woody odor of lumber not yet gray and weathered and I wonder if I have all the tools I need to start construction. Such a simple design, but overwhelming for the inexperienced builder.
The fenceless life hasn’t been working well for me. I thought an open field approach was about loving others. I enjoyed having people wander around the tall grasses and array of wildflowers and if they saw something useful I would abundantly share. I thought it was the right thing to do.
But after a while, I started to notice how unhealthy my field was – trampled and used up. I had to change something and a fence, I decided, was the answer. A fence, not to keep people away, but simply a way to define "what I'm responsible for and what I am not responsible for" (Cloud & Townsend, 1992).
So I build. Or I try to, anyway. My fence may not look pretty yet. And a rail may fall and a post may tilt, but I've begun building something where there was nothing. And that's a beautiful thing.
Read more about boundary setting here in this follow-up post.
Acknowledgements: This post is based on knowledge I obtained from reading "Boundaries: When to Say Yes, and When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. If you struggle with setting or accepting boundaries or are interested in understanding how important boundaries are in parenting, on the job, or in relationships, I would highly recommend reading this book.
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