Playing Off-Fence While Guarding Your Heart
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My father was neither a farmer, nor a rancher, but that did not stop my parents from moving out to the country when I was 16. Within a year we had a small-scale cattle operation underway regardless of the fact we knew very little about raising cows. Evidently, there is more to it than just having them delivered to a field where we expected they would graze happily ever after.
The learning curve was harsh. I have many entertaining stories about escapes, chases, and amateur herding, but the point I am trying to make is that we learned very quickly the importance of reinforced fences, electricity, and knowing how to spot vulnerabilities on the perimeter. And most important, we learned this was not a one-time chore, but an ongoing process of regular maintenance.
The split-rail fence makes for a scenic pastoral experience, but those rails regularly find their way out of the post holes after a storm or just by natural decay. Sometimes the cows even have enough brains to maneuver their heads between the rails and knock them loose. (This is when we learned the value of electrifying the fence!) And the posts are not immune to any of these threats either. When a post gets weak, it’s only a matter of time before an entire section of fence is going to come down. That is not a pleasant situation to wake up to after a thunderstorm rolled through the night before and now the cows are missing!
As I’ve told these stories over the decades, it recently occurred to me that my father’s small-time cattle operation serves as a good model for how Christians need to maintain their spiritual investment in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” (CSB)
With the same intensity and purpose that my parents put into walking the fence line looking for weaknesses and potential hazards, as believers, we should be examining our hearts regularly for the same.
Any time we allow a root of bitterness because of offense, a couple of our rails have fallen out. When we react poorly to that relationship that triggers our frustrations, our fence posts are starting to weaken. Any ‘secret sins’ we allow to linger are rotting the wood of both rail and post. And then when that storm of life rushes in out of nowhere, our weakened fence is no match for the forces of this world and our enclosure is breached. Our love, joy, peace, and patience has escaped from our heart because we did not maintain (guard) it properly.
The vigilance and intentionality that my folks use in monitoring their cattle fences is a beautiful model for how Christians should go about maintaining the condition of our hearts. When we feel that sting of offense, we need to recognize it and bend down and put those rails back in the post holes (forgive). When we react in sinful ways to relationship triggers, we need to own it and replace that weakened post with a new one (humility). When our struggles with the flesh are overwhelming, we must seek accountability and repentance and root out the rotten areas of our lives just like replacing decaying pieces of a wooded fence. And now when the storms of life come, we can withstand them because we have been maintaining our fence (hearts) along the way. Now in the face of life’s great trials, we will experience what it is to have supernatural love, joy, peace, patience, and all the divine spiritual fruits found in Galatians chapter 5.
Take that walk around the perimeter of your heart today. Look for the fallen rails. Identify the vulnerable posts. Do some maintenance. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and give you the strength to make the necessary repairs. Even if you are in the midst of a storm, the miraculous power of God is not limited from entering into your situation. Guard your heart with intentionality and on a regular basis. Just like I learned as a teenager out on the ranch, do the work. You’ll be glad you did…and bonus, so will the Father.
Scripture is quoted from the Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
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