Doug is coming today. He will stay about a week. His peeps are going on a trip. I erected a temporary gate so he doesn’t stray off the deck. He is so people-friendly that he would go with anyone who pets him. He loves it when you stroke his belly.
A mix between a border collie and a retriever, he is our grand-dog. He is not so much a herder, frankly, he couldn’t care about other dogs. Placid in personality, they bark at him, especially the smaller yappers, but he is unperturbed. A rabbit or squirrel may get him riled up as he wants to go after it.
The temporary gate is more a deterrent than anything else. I have erected it more than once. It’s a bit of a balancing act as it doesn’t cover the stairwell, and I have to bolster it with wooden blocks. Tighten the bolts on one side, the blocks fall off the other. Want to hear a pastor utter colorful language?
Doug likes to be in the cool of the deck. His long-haired black coat is often too warm for him, so lying on the deck is a comfortable compromise. Occasionally, he will lift his head, sniff the breeze, and settle in a comfortable position again.
What gates do you have that act as deterrents to you or to your faith? I often hear about gates that keep us fenced in: “I did that when my kids were younger; now they are grown.” “My age keeps me from getting up early for worship.” “Those younger parents should teach at Faith Finders; I’ve had my turn.” “I helped build this church and its faith community; others must step up.”
Sometimes the gates we erect are about bad feelings: “I miss the old sanctuary.” “I don’t like the new building.” “Live streaming causes copyright issues.” “Why can’t we sing our favorite hymns?” “So and so hurt my feelings: who does she think she is?” “I can’t understand the pastor.” “Must I sing so many verses of the hymn?” “I don’t want to do that!”
The pandemic sure erected gates and fences: wash your hands, keep your distance, or don’t cough openly. It kept us in a lockdown position; gradually these restrictions have been eased but some haven’t come back to worship. Others prefer the convenience of watching online where pajamas are the new norm. I don’t have to sing the hymns and prefer just to watch rather than worship.
The trouble with gates is that they imply fences, those barriers we erect to keep us safe, disengaged, and consoled.
I am waiting for the day when Doug realizes that the gate is just a deterrent, a pushover if he leans heavily on it. I am praying that whatever gate or fence you have erected, you will push over so you can be free. Climb the fence and roam free.
Spring blessings, Graham N. West, pastor