The Princess reminded me recently that she has always lived in a state that borders Canada: Maine, Michigan, New York and now the beautiful Northeast Kingdom.
This week, she and her hubs took me across the border to the tiny town of Stanstead, where we walked through quiet neighborhoods admiring the stony architecture and manicured lawns.
Of course there was a rink.
Everything was so orderly, including the street we drove down later which had Vermont homes on one side and Quebec maisons on the other. No one seemed concerned that two countries were literally sharing the same asphalt, telephone poles, and drainage ditches.
Crossing back and forth between Canada and the U.S. was peaceful and calm, cars lined up in the queue patiently waiting their turn, people politely answering the Custom Agents’ questions, passports methodically reviewed and found sufficient.
It got me thinking about borders.
Borders are everywhere.
Borders are necessary.
Sheep need fences or they will wander off and be torn apart by wolves. Worse, one errant sheep can cause the demise of a whole flock as lamb after clueless lamb follow the leader to their doom.
Staying within a given border is critical for a society to function.
Speed limits, postal codes, environmental regulations – these all exist to keep us and those around us safe.
Sadly, our family knows all too well what happens when you go outside the lines.
If indeed good fences make good neighbors, as Robert Frost observed, why do we fight so hard to bash against them, try to hurtle over them, tear and slash at their protection?
It seems as if all we do these days is push against each other’s borders demanding that the other side either join us over here or stay over there and leave us alone.
I’m not sure when everything became so complicated.
When I was little, I loved to wander in the woods, adopt stray kittens from the farmer’s hayloft up the street, wrestle and run and raise a ruckus.
I wanted to be a boy, but when I told my mother this, she simply said, “You don’t have a penis. You cannot be a boy.”
Sometimes the greatest kindness is a no.
I went on to discover that I could be a tomboy and a girly girl, all because my wise mother set for me a border of common sense. By affirming who I truly was, she gave me the freedom to explore all of the complicated me-ness that wanted to be known.
As an athlete, I am concerned that one day, women like my daughter will not be able to qualify for the Boston Marathon because borders were erased and we could not get them back.
We need borders.
God Himself gave us borders, 10 rules for living that, when followed, make for a happy and well-balanced life.
Recently, I have been praying a dangerous prayer.
Fatigue, self-pity, and indifference had worn me thin, and I wanted to get back to a place where walking with God was my highest priority.
So I prayed: Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Be careful what you wish for.
Did God send me ease, a pat on the back?
Things actually got tougher, which made me press into Him deeper, which caused me to see myself clearer, which made me want to cringe and cry.
Jesus called this the plank in your own eye (Matthew 7:3), and mine was the size of a redwood. I wanted to point my finger at that person or this situation, to blame something or someone outside of myself for my own wretched faults.
But here’s the thing: God, the author of perfect borders, did not leave me where I was; He, the Shepherd, led, and I, the reluctant sheep, followed Him back to inside the fence where there truly was good grass and freshclear water.
I am reminded that God is a loving Father who wants to keep us and those around us safe.
He’s not surprised when we push against His boundaries, but He is firm.
He is willing to teach if we are willing to learn.