Fences and borders keep people out. Borders and fences also keep people in. We tell ourselves these barriers are for our safety. We maintain these areas as we mark our territory. What fences have you put up lately? What borders are you desperate to maintain? What territory are you protecting? It could be much more than a physical space!
Our reality is that borders and boundaries, fences and territories matter. What about our emotional and spiritual lives? Do we keep others out by erecting imaginary boundaries? Do we keep God out of our lives? Is it a bad thing to break these barriers down? How would we go about that? Do we feel safer inside or outside?
I once had a church member who was afraid to leave her home. She had agoraphobia. She felt safe in her home. Outside, she felt vulnerable. As we met and prayed, she shared that people made her nervous. She felt they stared at her and judged her. With professional counseling she made some progress. She was able to go out and reconnect with the world in two hour increments. When these shorter outings were successful, she gradually increased her time out of her home. She may never be able to stay out for days, but she is able to function in society now. She told me that the prayers we prayed made a huge difference. When she started to let God into her life, she was more able to move her barriers and break down her self-imposed fence. God’s presence helped her to feel safe – even outside her home.
We might not have a phobia, but we may often be anxious. The key we need is to open up to God. God wants us to include others in our everyday lives. If we are locked into our own territory, with fences and barriers surrounding our heart, then we aren’t going to be open to others. Other people bring us challenges, differing perspectives, and often change, but those are positive experiences if we want to grow personally and spiritually. How do we break down our barriers and take down our fences? One of the things I’ve learned is that education helps my anxiety. Have a problem that fences you in? Find out as much as you can about that issue, situation, or need. Pray about the issue and give it to God. Suddenly, the door opens to new opportunities and awareness. What else helps? Talking to someone you trust. It doesn’t have to be a professional counselor, though I recommend counseling in some situations. Simply sharing your anxiety with another person and asking them to pray about it and pray with you really opens up that barrier. Some people feel my comfortable journaling. Put your feelings and anxieties in writing (even write yourself a note and mail it!). When you’ve come through this particular problem, you can read what you did and see the progress you have made. Do not allow your isolation to become a prison.
Not every border or fence is a barrier to hope and love. Sometimes these borders protect us and provide a respite for our souls. However, if you find that you are spending more time in isolation and fear, then begin to break down those borders and fences and allow God to be a part of your inner healing. If you need counseling, get the help you need. If you need a friend to talk to, call someone. Get creative in how you knock down these borders and open the fences in your life. Remember that I care about you and that God also cares.Blessings for your week!
Rev. Bev Hall, pastor of Pleasant Hills United Methodist Church, Middleburg Heights, OH