The name was inspired from a conversation I had with a good friend about being authentic with others. I think that when we leave our houses, we put on a certain face... "The Life's a Cake Walk" face. ::cue the Eleanor Rigby background music:: We really don't let people get too close to us very often. Maybe we've been hurt by someone we let get close. Maybe we're embarrassed about what people might see if we really just were ourselves, without all the bells and whistles. We don't want to show flaws or let people know when we're struggling. We spend time trying to maintain a certain "image".
The thing about living like that is that eventually it catches up with us. People always find out when we don't tell the truth. It's true that it might take a while but, the truth always comes out.
It's exhausting to pretend to be something that you aren't. Some of us (me included) have had more than one face to put on. We juggle different versions of ourselves based on who we're with at the time. We're "religious" with certain people and "cuss like sailors" with other people. We're "Practically Perfect in Every Way Mom" with some people and we're "Hot Mess Mom" with others. We've got this constant rotation of personalities and mannerisms based on our audience. It's ridiculous! Heaven help us if we run into a friend from Group A when we're with someone from Group B! At some point, you get sick of it. It's sad when you realize that no one really knows the Real You. It's even MORE sad when you can't remember who the Real You is. (I know that from experience!) It stinks to think that you've lost yourself in the process of keeping up something that wasn't even real. It also stinks when we find that we don’t even LIKE this person we’ve created and decide to reinvent ourselves, once again, at the expense of the people who cared for our caricature. (Mid-life crisis sound familiar?)
I’d like to suggest that the place we're most likely to just be ourselves is in our own backyard. It's a place where we don't dress up. We wear clothes to work in the yard and we don't do our hair. We don't wear a ton of make-up. We let the kids run around in play clothes and barefoot (unless you're worried they'll get stickers in their feet!) It’s the place where hang out with our closest friends, with a tall cold drink, and just chill out. It’s not formal. It’s relaxed. Your back yard self is different than your front yard self.
“Good fences make good neighbors.”
That idiomatic expression has been around for a long time. Usually we take it to mean “good neighbors mind their own business” BUT, I’d like to offer a different twist to it.
Fences are a boundary marker. They let us know where our space ends and where someone else’s space begins. The fence line is a place that’s kinda neutral.
Go with me for a minute.
Remember the TV show from the 90’s with Tim Allen called “Home Improvement?” Tim would have some kind of problem (Usually it was personal but sometimes, it was trouble deciding what to do in terms of discipline with his kids.) Tim would always end up talking to his neighbor, Wilson, in his backyard over the fence. Tim would be honest and share what was going on and Wilson would give him advice from a place that was truly honest but not judgmental. Wilson never hopped the fence. Actually, I don’t think we ever even saw his whole face! (That might be the longest running gag in TV history!) Wilson stayed on his side of the fence but, genuinely cared about his friend and his friend’s family. He didn’t run right over and try to take over and fix things… he listened to his friend’s troubles and gave him sound advice. He respected the boundary AND showed that he cared about Tim.
|There are moments I wish Wilson was MY neighbor!|
I believe that’s the kind of posture that we should have with each other. Honest… caring… respect for boundaries… loving friendships. We need friends who will be honest with us but, who won’t “hop our fence” and try to run things for us. We need to be able to share our lives with each other but, still have our own space and keep some things private. We also need to behave that same way with other people ourselves. Unless someone seriously needs rescuing (think suicidal issues), we shouldn’t be trying to “hop their fence” and take over their space and stomp all over their yard. After all, that's not being a real friend. That's being a dictator!
No Friendship Coups! Who’s with me?!
We should be able to meet each other at the metaphorical fence line and share life honestly. We should be able to encourage each other to make wise choices. We ought to encourage each other to get back on the path God’s laid out for us, when we get tripped up by things that aren’t from Him. But we should do it in a way that isn’t bossy or unkind or sounding like we have ALL the answers. We can share, without over sharing, and live REAL life with the kind of support system that we really need. At some point in time, we’re all going to need someone in our corner to back us up. We'll need that person that we can call in the middle of the night when we’re out of Tylenol and hubby’s out of town and one of the kids spikes a huge fever. We’ll need someone we can meet up with and share the parts of our lives that are hard… broken hearts, death of a loved one, major illnesses, divorce, or tough stuff with our kids that has us at our wit’s end. We were not created to go through this life alone. There's no escaping it... those kinds of thing are going to happen to us. And we were built to WANT relationships. Authentic relationships… and Godly ones at that… are built on honesty.
I want THIS SPACE to be just like that fence line. Real life. No pretense. Love for God. Love for family. A desire to grow in our relationships with Christ and with others is the only thing we have to bring.
Meet me at The Fence.