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As best I can remember, I was headed east in my 18-wheeler on a two-lane highway, far off the “beaten track,” relaxed, intrigued by the open prairies before me, enjoying the ride.
I had traveled but a few miles when I spotted a sign, “WATCH FOR CATTLE.” Suddenly I realized, no fences! As far as the eye could see, not a one! It felt as though I was looking at early America, the long since forgotten “home on the range.” Wouldn’t it be great if life were like that? No fences! Do as you please, ignore the rules, live for the pleasures life brings.
I am well aware there are many who are attempting to live just that way. America is, after all, the land of the free; we only go around once. Enjoy! But can we live without a fence or two? Can life be sustained without restrictions, self-discipline and responsibility? History has shown that unrestrained freedom often leads to chaos, and that we do not want.
Ravi Zacharias, writing in Deliver Us From Evil, makes this observation: “[T]here must be fences in life, else predators, with unrestrained and insatiable passions, will break down every wall of protection and relentlessly plunder everything we treasure.
“For America, in particular, her quest is poignantly defined in the noble but difficult pursuit of reconciling liberty with law. “Confirm thy soul with self-control, thy liberty with law” was not just poetic license. It was the vision. It was the dream. It was the central idea. It is not an accident of American history, therefore, that to this very day the nation is embroiled in debates over rights of privacy versus legislative authority. Morality, freedom, self-determination, happiness, sexuality, and security are all personal in their application. But nationally, they impinge upon the legislative role of government as it makes liberties possible for the protection of each and the benefit of all” (pp. 20, 29).
Perhaps nowhere is the balance between law and liberty more critical than in the home. Some parents, in an effort to teach personal responsibility, have raised their children virtually without restraint. No fences! They demand little self-discipline, issuing requests rather that orders, suggestions rather than rules. And what do you get? A spoiled, self-centered, demanding, brat!
Life isn’t designed that way; the fences are there and they stand to our benefit. Happiness is not found in what we do, but in who we are. Character is priority one! What is true in the natural realm is also true in the spiritual realm. The Apostle Paul put it this way. Special qualities, known in Christian circles as “the fruit of the Spirit,” are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” We call that character.
These qualities of life are most generally best developed in times of stress, when the fences demand restraint and self-discipline. We are not alone in this struggle, however. Jesus, well aware of the stresses in life we all face, said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Although the Christian life is not always easy, and the fences still stand, it is always good!