Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Fence of Faith

As springtime edged towards summer, resuming my early morning walks was something I was eagerly looking forward to. Finally a dry, sunshiny day coincided with my scheduled day off, and soon I was off, rejoicing in the beauty of my surroundings, the warmth of the weather, and the quiet surrounding me. I headed towards the grove of trees to my west, moving steadily because even though I didn't have to go to work, I was still under time pressure. I had put a coffeecake in to bake before heading out the door, confident that I could reach the treeline and get back just in time to pull our breakfast out of the oven.

Exhilarated to be out and exercising once more, I reached the trees and started to turn, as planned. But something stopped me, and I gazed at the little stretch of woods with longing, feeling a pull to step a little farther along the road to where I could see into the grove and enjoy its beauty for just a few seconds more.

And so I did, and just as I got to where I could peer into the tree stand a little deeper, I suddenly gasped and stopped in surprise. There, just feet away from me, stood a beautiful doe and her tiny fawn, likewise enjoying a beautiful day and breakfast out. They lifted their heads and we stared at each other for the longest time; I slowly moved my phone up to where I could snap a photo and the deer began to ease out of the picture at just the same speed. Finally the doe bounded away, her baby at her heels, and I stood for a moment more, awestruck, before I remembered that I had a reason to hurry off, as well.

As it happened, that evening my husband suggested we continue to enjoy the beautiful day by again going on a walk, this time together. We headed down the road in the opposite direction from my morning hike, again enjoying a quiet holiday weekend stroll and commenting on the sights in our neighbors' yards as we passed by. When my husband asked how far I wanted to go, I pointed to the stump of what used to be a huge walnut tree a good ways off in the distance, my usual turnaround point when I walked this way. But as we got closer, we were once again stopped in out tracks, this time by the sight of two very large dogs sitting unrestrained in any way in a yard just up ahead. No fence, no chains, nothing to keep them from defending their property from possible invasion, even by innocent passers-by. We could see a row of little white flags along the border of the property, and my husband suggested that perhaps they marked the presence of an invisible fence. Did we want to trust that such a fence truly did exist, and that the dogs were sufficiently trained to remain within its confines, even at the sight of approaching strangers? As yet the dogs had not noticed us; they were facing a different direction. In silent agreement we turned and headed back towards home.

In our Christian walk, we similarly sometimes have a goal in mind... a level of faith we want to achieve, an answer to prayer we are waiting on, or perhaps just a deepening of our relationship with Him. And so we proceed, but sometimes the cares of this life stop us just short of where God wants to take us. We yield to the pressure and turn around right when we were on the brink of discovery, and so miss a beautiful moment that God had prearranged, just for us. If we would only listen to and respond to the pull of our hearts, to venture just a little bit further, perhaps we would see a whole lot more and be simply awestruck by what He had in mind to show us. How easily we can miss moments of glory, just by turning around a moment too soon.

Or perhaps we are moving steadily towards our breakthrough, our turnaround point... that answer to prayer we have been waiting on. Just as it comes into sight, however, we likewise catch sight of the enemy lurking nearby, intent on keeping us from walking on ground that is rightfully ours, purchased for us by our Savior with His Blood on the cross. We quail at the size and imagined ferociousness of our foe, held back only by the fence of our faith. Perhaps to this point that faith has never been tested, and we are unsure if it is strong enough to keep the enemy at bay. Rather than risk a fight we might lose, we turn tail, and the turnaround in our situation must wait for another day.

Are you at that point today? Has your walk with God taken you to a point where you must decide whether to let Him take you further into uncharted territory, or retreat into the safety of what you already know? It took the Israelites 40 years to enter their Promised Land, simply because they balked at so many of the challenges they encountered, longing at times to return to the life they knew, even as slaves under a tyrannical master. Some of us simply don't have that long to wait! Yet God is longing that we would see these situations as the stepping-stones they are to the answers we so desperately seek. A change in our perspective might lead to a change in our actions...and likewise to the outcome of the situation. Count it all joy!

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
(James 1:2-4 NKJV)

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