Cattle guards. We had a cattle guard at our driveway entrance when I was growing up. My foot got caught in it a few times when I wasn’t paying attention. Our cow wouldn’t cross over the grate, but she had no problem pushing over the split-rail fence in her pasture to go see other cows down the street.
I recall times the neighbor’s cattle pushed through the gate of our front yard to eat flowers and plants, lounging in the shade of our trees.
One morning I opened the front door to get the newspaper and was greeted by a young cow, who promptly walked into the living room.
It was early Sunday morning. I hurried to get her outside without waking my parents before she made a deposit on the carpet.
Anyway, why do cattle guards work? Do cattle have depth perception, and the pit below the steel pipes startles them? Can’t they maneuver over the pipes? And why won’t they even cross painted cattle guard? Can they not see the road for the lines? You’d think they could easily see past such a simple illusion.
As God was talking to me about cattle guards, He showed me how there can be areas where we’ve installed our own painted cattle guards. We may believe they’re for our protection, but in reality, we’re fencing ourselves in. For some, it’s a guard against going into new territory in their relationship with God; another may be against miraculous healings or — here’s a biggie — against active pursuit to understand the character and nature of God and what the Bible teaches about certain topics. So, really, when we have our guards up, each is made of fear.
One of the best ways to combat fear is to understand and believe what God has told us in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I love how God says what He means and means what He says. “I didn’t give you fear. I gave you power, love and a sound mind.” That tells me that if anything isn’t from God, I don’t have to let my life be ruled by it.
Fear comes from the enemy, and just like damaged package that arrives at my house, I can easily say, “Return to sender due to damage.”
Fear is sometimes packaged as “thoughtful conservatism” or in a similar wrapping that makes us feel good about staying in our comfort zones instead of pushing past them. Fear always brings damage. God tells us to not allow fear of situations, people and circumstances into our minds. Time and again in the Bible you will find “Fear not.” God knew we’d need the reminder and encouragement.
What He does want us to receive is power, love and a sound mind. And joy. And peace. And kindness, gentleness, self-control and so many other good things.
Another is the fear of being rejected by God for what we’ve said, done or believed in the past. We can have a concept that God is somehow angry or disappointed in us, but that assumption is not only incorrect, but unbiblical.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 clarifies forever how God sees us, regardless of where we find ourselves: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
Jesus made a way for us to come into relationship with God as we receive His sacrifice for us. When we ask for and receive forgiveness and invite Him into our hearts to lead us, we get to start over. And we get to choose to be fearless. It’s as if, by our choice, we get the power to erase those lines we’ve allowed to hold us back.
Suddenly, because of Jesus’ gift, we get to begin an authentic, vibrant and living relationship with God. He always looks at us with love according to our destiny, not our history. He also wants us to know that He’s always in a good mood and that He not only loves us, but He even likes us. He wants to hang out with us every day, to invest in our relationship with him, to encourage us and pour His dreams for our lives inside of us. Jeremiah 17:7 says, “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.” And we learn the truth of “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength,” in Philippians 4:13.
That is fabulous news! That is the gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ. When we have been forgiven and invite Christ to lead our lives, we don’t ever need to be afraid of God or circumstances. When we truly understand who He is and how much He loves us, we get to be fearless and free because of our relationship with Him. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, it says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” We can trust Him with all of ourselves, we don’t need to put up any cattle guards to create some illusion of a barrier between God and ourselves or the marvelous plans He has for us.
All those things we are keeping ourselves from doing and being? We have simply allowed ourselves to let the illusion become our reality.
How do we get past it? Lift our eyes, look at Jesus, get a new perspective and boldly run on the road God has for us that leads toward amazing things.
The Rev. Mikki Jones co-pastors Grace Christian Center wth her husband, the Rev. Dave Jones. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should call Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.