Over the years on the farm, I’ve thought about electric fences a lot, and I’ve had a few run-in’s with them too. I’ve learned a few things about them which seem to speak spiritually to my heart, and I hope they will be helpful to you as well—and maybe a bit comical for those who have a strange sense of humor like me.
1. Electric fences keep me from becoming too interested in my neighbor’s business. Many’s the time while out on the farm I have seen something interesting—or maybe not quite normal—on a neighbor’s property. The temptation to go over there and investigate was quickly overcome by the thought of how difficult it would be to slither through those hot wires. And that’s a lot like life.
It’s good to be interested—but not too interested in what’s going on in the lives of others. “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,” (1 Thess. 4:11). I think of the many problems I’ve been spared because of the old maxim, “ignorance is bliss.” Unless I can help in some way, I don’t need to know about every little fuss and scandal going on around me. Being so well informed about the affairs of others causes a lot of unnecessary misery, and it’s not the kind of suffering we need to be inviting into our own lives. “For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men’s matters,” (1 Pet. 4:11). Sometimes we need an imaginary electric fence to help keep us focused where we belong.
2. Electric fences keep my neighbors from becoming too friendly with me. There’s an old proverb which warns: “Let thy foot be seldom in thy neighbor’s house, lest he be weary of thee, and hate thee,” (Prov. 25:17). There are exceptions to this, but as a general rule it’s nice for company to visit, but not to stay too long! And it’s wise to handle your own household without too much interference from neighboring onlookers.
In-laws and extended family members can be an enormous blessing, but I have known of marriages destroyed because they were “too often in the house.” It’s sometimes a fine line, but we need to remember the difference between being there for our friends and being under-foot!
3. Electric fences teach important lessons—quickly. Sometimes someone will ask me what it feels like being shocked by an electric fence. The best way I know to describe it is being hit by a pipe. Let’s just say it’s not pleasant. I’ve been knocked back by an electric fence, but never twice in the same spot. I was able to discern the message without a repeat lesson.
I wish that my sermons could be as well-remembered. It’s a humbling experience to be asked to preach on a point I had just covered the week before. I guess I didn’t have the current up high enough. I heard about a young boy who was asked what he learned in church that day. He said he learned just how generous and nice those men at the table are. “Why do you say that?” his mother asked. “Because one of them offered me a big plate of money, but I said no thank you.” Sometimes we are not learning the right lessons. But when we are knocked back on our heels, we may finally get the point, and not make the same mistake again. Wouldn’t it be nice if we would simply heed the warnings found in God’s word—without having to be “beaten over the head” by painful experience.
4. It’s not always apparent when something is wrong. I have had the pleasure of rounding up stray cattle from the neighbor’s farm, or from off the road (usually in the rain). If I had known earlier that the electric fence was not working, we might have avoided that, but sometimes problems are not known in time. A sudden electric storm, a power surge, a windy day or a fallen branch can all create unforeseen difficulties with electric fences.
While living the Christian life, we need to be sure our power supply is plugged in and working properly, because if it is not, we are going to have problems. Like biblical principles disregarded, electric fences do no good if they are off, (Jn. 15:1ff).
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.