One evening…well, actually it was very late one evening…so late, in fact, that we were already snug and sleeping in our beds, we were awakened by our dogs barking vigorously right under our bedroom windows. Curious as to what could be causing them such grave concern, we peeked out the window and gasped.
There on our front yard, bathed in the moonlight was our horse herd. The sight would have been a pretty one to behold, except for one thing…
They weren’t supposed to be there!
Somehow they had escaped their fence.
Concerned that they might get into something or go somewhere they shouldn’t, we stumbled sleepily outside. We came up with a “plan” and I ran into the small clump of trees beside our house with the intent of getting around the horses to chase them towards our driveway. From there we could send them down the road and into their fence.
But we failed to do one thing…
We didn’t let the horses in on our plan:D
And they had different ideas…
As they charged in the wrong direction, I quickened my steps until I was in an all-out run, sprinting through the trees, determined to get around them…
Or at least that was my intention.
But I completely forgot about our dog fence that was nicely nestled in the very trees that I was dashing through…a fence that at only three feet in height was the perfect elevation to catch my waist and quite literally flip me head over heels!
And as you can probably guess…my landing was not graceful.
In fact, it hurt…a lot.
I don’t remember the exact words I was muttering to myself as I stood up, and began stumbling my way through the trees – this time at a much slower speed – but I do remember that it had something to do with…
In the farm and ranch territory where I live, the countryside is lined and bisected with miles upon miles of fences. They are designed to keep cattle, horses or other animals within their proper confines, and to ensure the same animals from escaping into places that they should not be.
However, not all fences are the same. Their height and their length differ as greatly as their design and the material with which they are made.
Yet, regardless of their makeup, most fences need one critical element to ensure their success.
Fences need braces.
I still remember the day that I was out for a walk, talking with God, and my gaze was directed to the braces are a part of every fence that is on our ranch. As I walked along, I noticed two things.
- Not all braces are created equal. Although I am sure the objective of each of the braces I saw that day was to give strength and support to the fence, not all lived up to that purpose, as evidenced by the tipping anchor posts, sagging brace bars and drooping fence wires on some of them.
- The placement of braces is not random. They are placed at: corners (where the fence changes direction); changes in terrain (such as steep hills or swamps); and, in the middle of long, straight stretches.
A whole fence is made strong by a properly constructed and strategically placed brace. A whole fence is weakened when a brace is haphazardly constructed or not placed where it should be. Although they are small in size compared to the whole structure of the fence, they are critical components in determining the success or failure of the fence.
In much the same way, the construction and placement of braces in my life – that upon which I rely for strength and support – are critical components in determining if I will “stand firm” or “tip over” when faced with the outward pressures of life.
The Construction of the Braces
The design of braces is not random. Within their very structure of posts, crossbars and wires, is placed the capacity and the inner strength to withstand the continual, outward pressure placed on them by the fence.
When I construct the braces in my life with my resources, my capabilities, and my strength, I am bracing myself and anchoring my life to that which, in time, will surely fail as I face the continual outward pressures of life. While I may be strong for a period of time, there will come a day when the pressure is too much, and I will fail…because my strength runs out. My resources are limited. My capabilities are not comprehensive.
When the braces of my life are constructed with God’s resources, His capabilities and His strength, I am being “braced” and anchored to He who does not fail. His strength does not run out. His resources are limitless. His capabilities are comprehensive.
The Placement of Braces
I once asked a fence builder when braces needed to be constructed…before or after the fence was built.
He probably thought that was a redundant and rather silly question to be asked, but I wanted to double check my thoughts.
And his answer concurred:D
Braces need to be built…
In building physical fences, it takes planning to determine the where braces must be placed. The terrain, the type of ground, the length of the fence and any corners it may take are all factors that must be mapped out and considered. Taking time to plan the placement of the braces will only serve to bring about the success of the fence.
Now here’s the thing…
I don’t have a map of my life!
I don’t know where the corners are located – factors that change the course of my life…I don’t know where the terrain is going to change, where I am going to find myself stuck in a messy swamp, struggling to get up a steep hill or trying to cross a raging river.
I don’t even know how the long, straight stretches of my life will last.
If I try to place the braces of my life with my limited wisdom, there will be some that I get placed correctly in the right spots, because I have planned for them. But, there will always be those that I am trying to build after I have started to go around an unforeseen corner…or down into a ravine I didn’t see…or have sunk in the unexpected mud hole…or trying to traverse the swirling water of a sudden flood.
And building the braces after the fact…is well…it’s hard. And sometimes it is impossible.
Although, I don’t have a map of my life, God does. In fact in Psalm 139:16 it says that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
In other words, God knows what course changes my life is going to take…He knows where the ravines and the steep hills are…He knows the locations of the mud holes…and even when the storms of life are going to blow into my horizon.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” When I spend time each day in His Word – reading it, studying it, thinking about it, and applying it to my life – He equips me with His truths and the promises that I need to know for the next section of life that is ahead…a section that may be far different than what I am expecting.
In a way it is like getting the braces built beforehand…when they need to be built.
I don’t know about you, but I like food:D But I don’t just eat food because I like it…I eat it because I know that it will help to provide the physical strength and mental energy that I need for the next few hours of my life. Although I may or may not know what the next few hours will bring, I do know for certain that I need food to sustain me for whatever I will face.
And so…I take time to eat.
In much the same way, when I take time to feed on the bread of God’s Word, I am nourished with His truths and promises, and I can respond to the known and unknown challenges of the day with His wisdom, His strength and the perspective that He will supply every need I have for He will not leave me alone. Consistently, again and again, the truths that God teaches me each morning are just what I need for that day. Time spent with Him is never wasted.
I have also found just the opposite to be true. When I don’t take time to be renewed and taught by God’s Word each day, I usually end up living my day in my own strength, resources and wisdom. This impacts the perspective with which I face the pressures of that day. Instead of being thankful, it is much easier to be critical, to grumble and to complain. Instead of responding with patience, I am impatient. Instead of courage and boldness, fear and doubt creep in. Instead of trusting Him to supply my needs, I worry that I won’t have what I need.
In short, I end up reacting to situations, unprepared and ill-equipped, instead of responding to them, equipped and prepared with the provisions God provides.
Putting It Together
Just as the construction and placement of braces are critical in determining the strength and the ability of a fence to stand firm in the midst of the pressures placed on it, so to the construction and placement of the braces in my life are critical in determining my strength and ability to stand firm in the midst of the pressures that I face.
When the braces of my life are constructed with God’s strength, capabilities and resources…when those braces are placed strategically by God’s wisdom, I am braced with what I need to stand firm – even under the continual daily pressure or the difficulties that I face – or the burdens that are so great I am hard pressed…or in the challenges that overwhelm…or the trials that cause great pain…the course changes of life that weren’t asked for and perplex me –
Whatever troubles and outward pressures that are in my life – although they have the power to crush…to cause despair…to make me feel abandoned…to destroy –
They don’t need to:D
I don’t have to faint or lose heart, God makes me stand firm in Christ (2. Corinthians 1:21), His Word prepares me for what lays ahead (Psalm 119:105), He generously provides the wisdom that I need (James 1:5) and it is His strength that renews me each and every day (2. Corinthians 4:16).
You know, trusting in God’s resources, capabilities, strength and wisdom does not mean that I won’t face troubles…but it does mean that I will be properly braced and inwardly fortified with God’s strength so that I can stand firm in the midst of the pressures that I face.
In fact, as I stand firm, inwardly fortified by God’s strength, in the face those circumstances that exert extreme pressure on me, I can say with Paul…
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)