I woke up this morning thinking about fences. I remember living in New Jersey, where our area did not build fences. Yards melded into the next and standing on the porch, you didn’t know where one yard ended and the other began. I remember also living in Las Vegas, where an eight foot brick fence surrounded the yard. There was a lot of privacy, as you couldn’t see or hear anything outside of the yard.
I’ve experienced a range of living situations with a variety of yard boundaries. The same can be said of my relationships. I’ve experienced people in relationships who choose not to put up fences. When I stand on my back porch, it’s difficult to see where I end and they begin. Let’s be honest, I’ve spent years being that person in the lives of others! These kinds of relationships provide constant connection and companionship.Boundary-less relationships, though, are usually highly dysfunctional, unhealthy, and painful.
I’ve also experienced people in relationships who chose eight foot brick fences. I would often be in relational proximity to them, but couldn’t see or hear anything from their side of the fence. I have to confess that I have probably spent more time living this way in relationships than I did without boundaries. I have found myself relationally walled in by my brick fence and enjoyed the protection, safety, and privacy it provides. Trying to relate behind a brick wall usually leaves us lonely, isolated, and disconnected.
Boundaries are an important ingredient for healthy relationships. They empower me to take responsibility for my part of the relationship and empower others to do the same. This morning, I’m considering the kinds of boundaries we build in relationships, similar to the kinds of boundaries we use in our yards. It occurs to me, that there might be a relational alternative to these two extremes. What if, we learned instead to build picket fences?
A picket fence enables us and others to clearly see and experience boundaries. It also enables us a particular kind of openness. We are more available to love and connect with others. We are more likely to experience divine interruptions and divine encounters in relationship with others. We are more open to receive love and connection from others as well.
I’m challenged today to see where I have eight foot brick walls and replace them with picket fences. It will require me to swallow my pride, risk being hurt, sacrificing privacy and invisibility, and embracing acceptance. It has the potential to totally revolutionize how I experience relationships and how I am experienced in relationships by others. Today, I’m choosing to move from brick walls to picket fences!
I wonder today, are you living without fences or behind an eight foot brick wall? What would it require of you to practice picket fences in your relationships? How might your relationships be changed?