Loss – in all the forms in which it raises its ugly head in our lives – often blows through like a late summer twister. If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of tornadoes on the evening news (or in your social media fee), you’ve seen how they hop and skip across the landscape indiscriminately dispensing mercy and destruction.
On one block – a pile of splinters and twisted wire. On the next – nary a blade of grass out of place.
Loss does the same thing. It skips across the landscape of our lives indiscriminately dispensing mercy and destruction. One week, we may be the ones giving thanks that our manicured lawns and carefully curated flower beds are intact. Even so – there will come a time when we each will face a pile of splinters and twisted wire.
Loss reduces our boundaries (our personal fences) to a pile of rubble. And that’s assuming we had good fences before loss came blowing through town.
While boundaries are a good thing in general, healthy fences are critical in the wake of loss and necessary to healthy grieving. Can you imagine a horse farm (or any animal farm) without fence lines? Horses need to know how far they can go before their safety is in danger. People (especially those of us who are not horse whispers) need to know how close we can get without endangering the horses or ourselves.
Boundaries in life work the same way. Healthy boundaries are like a good defense system keeping our allies close and our enemies at bay.
When life’s tornadoes tear down our fences, finding the energy to rebuild them can be nearly impossible. So – we settle for inferior building materials. We slap up temporary fences in the wrong place. We overbuild with the misguided notion that the fortified fence will never face destruction again. We forget to include a gate leaving us trapped on the inside and our support systems isolated on the outside.
C. S. Lewis once noted, “All sorts of things will make men brave for the time being. Alcohol, ignorance of the danger, anger, self-respect, human loyalty, and love of God. But they are not all equally good sources.” The same can be said of (re)building fences.
When choosing a design, choose your materials and your Designer carefully.
Healing happens on both sides of the fence – provided it is stable, sturdy, and strong.
Poor materials (alcohol, drugs, anger, and so on) may keep other people at bay but will at the same time trap us away from the comfort and support we need. Quality fencing materials not only send healthy signals to those who approach “our property,” but are critical to preventing us from going astray. In the disorientation of loss, it is easy to lose track and find ourselves wandering the back forty or meandering off the ranch onto neighboring property (not always friendly territory). The path back to the homestead obscured.
For me, this is where my faith in God becomes so important. When all other waypoints and survey markers have been wiped away, God is the ultimate Designer, intent on mending broken fences.
Dear Father, the whirlwind of life’s storms can be overwhelming and disorienting. We are forever grateful that we need not weather winds alone. Send your Holy Spirit – the wind that overpowers all winds – to guide us when boundaries have been wiped away. Help us to choose wisely when mending fences so that we have the safe space needed to heal but are not pocketed away forever disconnected from the healing that comes at the edge of our boundaries. Let us know the peace and joy that comes from connecting with a neighbor over a hedgerow. Let us know the hope that springs in the instant we turn from our own pile of splinters and wire to help a stranger mend their broken fences. We pray this through your Son, Jesus Christ, with the power of your Holy Spirit! Amen!
C. S. Lewis quote from The Anvil (unpublished transcript; BBC broadcast aired July 22, 1943)