Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Fences, Walls, Guardrails

Fences, Walls, or Guardrails?


I’ve been thinking lately about fences, walls, and guardrails, and the way we can view each one.

A quote from a television program recently caught my attention, not because it was so good, which it was, but because it is so foreign to our current culture.

The episode was from the classic TV program: The Dick Van Dyke Show.[1] In this episode, Rob Petrie connects with an old college friend who has built an empire around a men’s magazine—basically a fictional Hugh Hefner. And this friend could not understand why Rob preferred his marriage to Laura instead of a world where a man’s every desire could be satisfied free from old-fashioned moral constraints.

Rob’s response?

“Marriage, like many other things, has boundaries.

“To some guys, those boundaries represent walls. And that makes marriage a prison to them.

“But to other guys, those boundaries hold everything that’s good and fun in life. And that makes marriage a Disneyland to them.”

That episode aired almost sixty years ago. More recently, I came across a contemporary meme describing a similar understanding:

Our culture today is one that abhors any type of perceived restriction, especially in areas of morality. Absolute standards of right and wrong? Nonsense! We’re much too sophisticated for that—or so we’d like to think.


Nothing New Under the Sun

Reminds me of a verse from the Bible:

“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6 ESV).

Hmmm . . . Solomon was right. there’s nothing new under the sun after all. It appears we’re not as advanced as we think. After all, this Bible verse, written thousands of years ago, is as apt a description of our culture as anything written today.

Restrictions don’t have to be prison walls. Or fences that keep us from good things. Sometimes those restrictions, much like the walls around Disneyland, protect the good things for us. Other times they act as guardrails to protect us from dangers we may not even be aware of.

I have an invisible fence around my yard. Invisible in the sense that it’s an electric wire buried six inches below the ground. When we first installed it, my dogs chafed at the restriction. But I knew something they didn’t have the ability to understand: freedom to run beyond the fence into the street could have deadly consequences. After a while, they didn’t even notice the boundary. Instead, they were free to run and chase each other with abandon within the boundaries that kept them safe.

What about you and me? When God says “don’t,” do we chafe at the restriction? Do we doubt His goodness as Eve did in the garden, thinking God is withholding something to be enjoyed? Or do we say, as the psalmist did in Psalm 119:

  • “I rejoice in following your statutes . . . I meditate on your precepts . . .
    I delight in your decrees” (119:14 -16).
  • “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (v. 24).
  • “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding” (v. 32).
  • “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight” (v.35).
  • “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight” (v.104).
  • “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart” (v. 111).

Fences, walls, or guardrails. How do you view God’s commands?

[1] Dick Van Dyke Show – Season 4, Episode 5 – “The Man From ‘Emperor’” – Oct. 21, 1964


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  1. Dave

    I want to say “fun,” but it’s not.
    “Well said.” There.

  2. Anne

    Boy does our culture need to hear this! Love the analogy of the invisible fence in your yard.

  3. Pam

    Love this Ava! Boundaries are not a bad thing…especially when raising teenagers, again!

  4. Melissa Henderson

    What a great post! I am thankful for the laws of God. His guidance helps me to shine His love and glory every day. When I don’t follow His way, I am heartbroken. I am thankful for His forgiveness.

  5. Melinda Viergever Inman

    A beautiful post so necessary right now. Boundaries are for our good and for our safety. They keep us from unexpected harm, and they keep us on the straight and narrow. We need to heed the Lord, Who gives us wise parameters within which to function.

  6. Yvonne Morgan

    I really enjoyed your post, especially the idea of a guardrail instead of a fence. I am one who tries not to flay against boundaries because they usually offer us protection instead of restrictions. Thanks Ava

  7. Nancy E. Head

    Many call television the boob tube, and today without the tubes, it really is. It’s sad how far down we’ve gone–and our television shows illustrate the distance between our standards and values then and those of today. Thanks for posting this!

  8. Jessica Brodie

    Amen to this! God’s commands are for our protection and because God loves us! Indeed they are guardrails.

  9. Karen Friday

    When God says “don’t,” do we chafe at the restriction? Oh, that steps on our toes! Love this analogy, Ava. I haven’t seen that show in ages. I miss those classic shows where morals were embraced and cherished.

    I heard a similar perspective about guardrails. Just like they keep our car from plunging down an embankment on a sharp curve, spiritual guardrails protect us and our hearts in Christ on the Christian journey.

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