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Don't fence me in!

Meet Faustina, our resident goodwill ambassador. She’s the first lamb to greet us, the neighbors, and the UPS man with a hearty “baaaaaa” that commands attention. She’s also the first to test limits and boundaries, explore new toys, new food, and any other novelty that comes her way. In that sense, she’s never met a fence she likes and in this photograph, the chain that provides a little extra insurance that the gate stays closed seemed to frustrate her. She nudged it, bit it, and ultimately stepped back and gave it the stink eye.

“Don’t fence me in!” she seemed to say and then gave me the stink eye too.

Of course, she doesn’t know the fences and the chained gate are there for her good. She has no idea what awaits her on the other side: plants she shouldn’t eat, cars in the road, coyotes in the woods, and a pretty good chance she’ll get lost, just to name a few potential hazards. She sauntered back to her sister lambs and plopped down under the pine tree. I called her to come over for a scratch but she refused. I didn’t know sheep could sulk.

I don’t know about you, but I can be pretty good at sulking when gates leading to what I think I want or need don’t magically open just because I lean into them or expect them to give way. It doesn’t occur to me that a boundary has been put in place for my good. Rather, I can become confused and frustrated and I’ve been know to step back and give God the stink eye. Not proud of it. Just sayin.’

But then, I recall the words of the Psalmist in praise of the Lord (emphasis, mine):

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it. ~Ps. 139:1-6

The Lord himself hems me in. He’s acquainted with my every thought and motive—with all of my ways! Left to my own devices and desires—that is, without His love fencing me in—I might well, in my ignorance, wander smack-dab into the lion’s den. After all, it’s no secret that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour! (1 Peter 5:8)

God gave us the Ten Commandments as spiritual fences put in place for our own protection. He gave us the whole of Scripture so that we could come to know His pasture as a safe and secure place, where obedience to its boundaries keeps us reachable, teachable, and blessed (even if we can’t see how just yet). And in a supreme act of goodness, He gave us Jesus as “the Gate for the sheep” so that we “may have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10: 7-10)

Our little ewe lamb, Faustina, is named after St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a twentieth-century Polish nun and mystic through whom the message and image of Jesus as Divine Mercy was revealed and shared with the whole world. Christ commanded that this miraculous image of Himself be accompanied by the phrase: Jesus, I trust in You.

How would our everyday lives be transformed if we could stop testing fences and simply trust that the boundaries within which our all-knowing, merciful God has placed us are meant not only to keep us safe, but ultimately, to help us grow in holiness and abundance?

In that case, please Jesus—fence me in!


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