The Fence

I have two stories to share with you this evening about fences and nails. They're not about my life personally, but they both have applied to my life and have powerful meaning for me. I hope you find them as rewarding for your life, as I have for mine.

Two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed, without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding, and it grew into a major difference, and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words, followed by weeks of silence.

One morning, there was a knock on the door of the older brother, John. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days' work," the man said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there that I could help with? Could I help you?"

"Yes," John said. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor. In fact, it's my younger brother, George. Last week, there was a meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee, and now there's a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence, an 8-foot fence, so I won't need to see his place, or his face, anymore."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails, and the post-hole digger, and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."

Then John had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day-measuring, sawing, and nailing. About sunset, when John returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge-a bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, with handrails, and all.

And, the neighbor, the younger brother, George, was coming toward them, his hand out-stretched. "You're quite a guy, John, to build this bridge after all I've said and done." The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other's hand, and then embracing, forgetting whatever it was that had set them at odds.

They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder. "No, wait!" John said. "Stay a few days. I've got a lot of other projects for you."

"I'd like to stay on," the carpenter said, "but I have many more bridges to build."

Jesus built a bridge of love for us with the nails in his hands and feet. He built a bridge so that we would love one another, not build fences of hate, or grudges or anger. We all have nails available to us. Are you building bridges or fences?

The second story is about a NAIL IN THE FENCE.

There once was a young girl, Judy, who had a bad temper. Her mother gave her a bag of nails and told her that every time she lost her temper, she must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the girl had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as she learned to control her anger, the number of nails she hammered daily gradually dwindled down. She discovered it was easier to hold her temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the girl didn't lose her temper at all.

She told her mother about it and the mother suggested that the girl now pull out one nail for each day that she was able to hold her temper. The days passed and the young girl was finally able to tell her mother that all the nails were gone.

The mother took her daughter by the hand and led her to the fence. She said, "You've done well, Judy, but look at the holes in the fence.

The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this hole in the fence. You can put a knife in a person and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is still there. And a verbal wound is as bad as a physical one."

Please, for the sake of the crucified Jesus, in our relationships with family and friends and strangers, let us not wound each other any longer.

And please forgive me if I have ever left a hole in your fence.


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