There once was a sheep named Smudge. He was just a little guy, whose brother was named Smartie. Smudge was a very curious sheep and insisted on exploring the world outside of the fence. So, he diligently searched the fence for an opening. One day, he finally found one at the bottom and managed to squeeze through it. His newfound freedom was exhilarating. He peeked back at his brother, Smartie, who stood inside of the fence, and he felt sorry for him. Smudge was now free to do whatever he wanted.
In all of his frolicking, Smudge soon began to get hungry. Looking through the wire fence, he saw his brother suckling at their mother, enjoying her warm milk. Smudge headed toward the fence, but was unable to find a gap. The gap that he had crawled through before would not let him through from the opposite direction. Smudge grew hungrier and hungrier as he searched for a way to get through. Just then, however, a stray dog came growling down the dirt road where Smudge stood. The dog lunged toward the tiny sheep, obviously seeking to tear it apart. Smudge ran as fast as he could down the road, until he found a split rail fence whose gaps were just big enough for him to fit through. Smudge dove through the rails, just as the dog snapped at his hind legs.
Smudge was safe, or so he thought. Turning around, he was face to face with a large bull, who was not too pleased at the sight of this little intruder. Once again, Smudge ran; the mighty bull followed him across the pasture. Smudge managed to escape on the other side, but almost got hit by school bus when he crossed the road outside of the fence.
In all of the excitement and with night falling fast, Smudge got lost. Making matters worse, a snowstorm whipped through the air, sending a sudden burst of wind and ice upon the lost sheep. Soon, Smudge was covered with snow, as his body was unable to out-warm the freezing flakes. It wasn’t long until Smudge collapsed on the ground and the snow piled upon him.
Later that evening, a girl named Penny happened to stumble upon the mound of snow, discovering the half-froze sheep. With the help of her mother, she brought Smudge inside the warm house, warmed him with a blow-dryer, and helped him to revive. She fed him warm milk and nursed him back to health.
This is my summary of a children’s story I read last night. And I can’t help but thinking about how we like to get to the other side of God’s fence. We look at God’s laws and think, “Life would really be much better on the other side of this fence.” We believe that God’s rules are way too restrictive and keep us from having fun.
But life—for Smudge or for us—is not better on the other side of the fence. The fence is not meant to keep us from having fun, but to keep us from being killed. On the other side of God’s fence, there are forces that are capable of destroying us.
Here’s another way of looking at it: the “fence” of God’s law is not meant to keep us from fun, but it is meant to keep us close to God. So that the more fences we crawl under, the farther from God we get. God’s fences were designed by him to keep us close to the source of life.
His laws are less about what we do not get to do and more about whom we get to be with. Did you get that?
If you’re trying to find a way through the fence right now, turn around and look at God. He is your source of life and nourishment and protection and joy. Yes, joy. Beyond the fence is danger, not in the sense of risk, but in the sense of stupidity. Why stray to look for outside of the fence what you can only find inside of the fence?
© Samuel Kee, 2011