Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Blessing of Boundaries

My godfather owns a cattle ranch just outside Houston, TX. He allows me to bring my family up as regularly as we're able to enjoy getting out of the city. We love it! Sunsets, starlit skies, and evening breezes are welcome relief from the congestion of city life.

We also get the opportunity of helping with projects around the ranch. Whether it's feeding the horses, helping with yardwork, or mending fences, there's always something that needs to be done. This is just the way it is on a ranch. It's the rhythm of daily ranch life.

My godfather tells me, and it's been affirmed by others who manage ranches across the nation, that a great deal of time is spent on fencing at a ranch. This is especially true of Black Angus cattle ranches, where breeding is an art. A great deal of money is spent on obtaining properly pedigreed bulls and heifers to ensure the birth of healthy calves. Once they're on the property, a ranch owner must be incredibly attentive to the females to determine when they're ready to spend time with the resident bull. This sounds simple, but considering that the bull can be downright uncontrollable when he knows the females are ready, things get challenging. Apparently, traditional barbed-wire fencing is not enough to keep him away from the ladies. A romantically-inclined bull will go through barbed-wire to satisfy his immediate hunger and throw a rancher's long-term strategic plans for growing a healthy herd into chaos.

The response by most ranchers is electric fences. Although barbed-wire seems more of a deterrent, a single-wire electric fence is much more effective. The jolt received when a bull encounters an electric-fence is an effective boundary and allows the rancher to do what's in the best interest of his or her cattle. I've accidently encountered one of these wires and understand why. Believe me, it will get your attention and cause anyone, person or bull, to reconsider crossing the established boundary.

Humanity seems to have too much in common with the bulls of the world. From the beginning of creation, God clearly established boundaries for humanity, boundaries that were in the best interest of humanity as they allowed for healthy relationship with God, others, and themselves. Didn't take much for self-interest to tempt us to cross those boundaries, resulting in broken relationships. Even today, whether we are Christians or not-yet Christians, we are willing to cross ethical boundaries for short-term gratification rather than uphold those boundaries, trusting our Shepherd has our best interests at heart. If we would only live within those boundaries, we might come to know that they exist only to allow us to experience life in all its wonder and beauty. God's boundaries aren't about restricting us, but protecting us from ourselves that we might experience life in all its fullness.