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    On the Merits of a Backyard Fence

    November 12, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    One of my favorite memories of fellowship consists of a small group we were privileged to be a part of for a time. There were two other couples from our now-defunct Newlyweds Ministry that had expressed interest in studying parenting. Si and I, obviously unqualified to teach such a small group, offered to start a book group {rather than wait many months for the church’s parenting class to start back up} where we would read and discuss a Christian parenting book.

    I will not share the name of the book as there are few books more controversial than parenting books.

    This was a great time of discussing the topic of parenting. And it was also exciting because during the group’s duration, each family added a tiny member to their numbers.

    When the book was over, all of us secretly hoped the group wouldn’t end there. We took a short break, and started back up. This time, our book was Harry Blamires’ The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?. Excellent book, by the way. We highly recommend it.

    It was also during this time that Si began quoting Abraham Kuyper, a habit he maintains to this day. One of his favorites is:

    There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

    I remember that all of us marveled one night together as we realized that a person really could think about any subject Christianly. God’s Word reveals His attributes, character, and plan for this world. Creation reveals much of His design, which is often clarified in Scripture. The Bible was opened wide to us in that moment.

    And so we spent some time discussing the merits of the fence in our backyard.

    This may sound silly, but there is a lot that goes into a fence. I remember, when I was a little girl, my family traveled to a place that did not have fences and I mistook it for a golf course!

    Now, our yard has two types of fencing. Along the back, which separates our yard from the intersection of two fairly major streets, there is a concrete block wall that is approximately six feet tall, plus the yard is sloped upwards at the back an additional two feet. On either side, separating us from our neighbors, there are the now-standard natural wooden fences, also six feet tall.

    All of this is to say that our yard is completely private.

    And so we discussed, first of all, what a fence is for. The back wall would be for sound reduction, for instance. The side fences would be for privacy. All fences would also keep children and pets in while sending a message to strangers to stay out.

    From here, the discussion turned to what it means to live in community. We talked about whether perhaps the back wall was completely appropriate, reducing noise and giving the neighborhood a sense of privacy from the traffic, while the side fences were questionable. Did they impede a person from meeting their neighbors? Did they discourage community?

    We talked about other, possibly superior, options. Perhaps a cute white picket fence would still contain small children and animals while allowing the neighbors a great sense of community?

    We never thought there was one right answer, but we were all certain that God’s Word really could inform the architecture of a fence {or lack of a fence altogether}, and that certain fences might better express God’s character and design than others.

    But we also asked the question of whether a fence was necessary because of the nature of our community. If we lived next door to shadier characters, we might find ourselves more grateful for the fence! And God’s Word might have input on that, also, this time in the area of protecting our children from the influence of evil before they are ready to handle all of the realities of this world.

    If I could encourage Christians to do anything, it is to realize how big and beautiful God’s Word is. It seems that Christian culture has simplified God as saying nothing about anything unless it is directly and obviously related to heaven, hell, or the doctrines of salvation. If God has nothing to say about anything else, the world is essentially void of meaning.

    I would say {and Blamires would agree!} that the world is full of meaning, and that everything can be understood Christianly {which should not be taken to mean that every person/church/community will look exactly alike; God created much diversity}. Everything can be submitted to the Lord. And what beauty is there in a world where the people seek Him in all things!

    I will end with a book, of course. This time it is a collection of ten essays on Jonathan Edwards named A God Entranced Vision of All Things. Reformation 21’s review of the book, written some time ago now, explained that it had a “unifying theme rooted in Edwards’ understanding of the centrality of God in all things.”

    What a wonderful way of putting it: the centrality of God in all things.

    The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
    Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
    There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
    Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
    In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
    Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

    Psalm 19:1-6

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