Open, shut them, open, shut them, Give a little clap, clap, clap. Open, shut them, open, shut them, Put them in your lap, lap, lap.
A very close and good friend sent me a video clip to watch early this week. It was a short video of a very young boy with a man-sized task. And I could relate to him and his experience. He was attempting to close a gate. But this wasn't just any gate. It was a cattle gate, really a pair of gates for a large piece of farm machinery. He found them open and they needed to be shut. I suppose perhaps shut to keep something in or something out. Any good farm boy knows that animals need to be kept in place, not allowed to wander from one place to another. At any rate, the gate that he thought needed to be shut was actually 2 metal gates attached to the ends of fences. When both gates were properly closed, they met together with no overlap. But both gates could swing on their hinges to make one very large opening. So you can imagine the small boy bringing one gate into place and then trying to get the other gate to match it in place so that they could be joined to close the opening. Every time one gate was closed/in place and he went to get the other one to meet the first one, then that first one would swing back open and then he had to go get the first one again. Meanwhile, then second one would swing back open. It was a never ending effort on the boy's part and no amount of running between gates solved his problem. He finally got a bit wiser and tried to over swing one of the gates to buy some extra time. Still, that didn't work either. Finally the right hand gate seemed to remain in place and was not swinging back! Success! He quickly got the other gate in place, only to discover that the gate that was not swinging was just out of his reach!!! And no amount of stretching, reaching, etc. could make them meet. He even tried throwing sticks at it to make it move. He had lots of determination to accomplish the task that seemed impossible.
That little video story made me think of my own struggles with gates when I was a kid. We too had gates that needed to be closed to keep cattle where they belonged. And where they belonged changed from time to time, depending on what crops had rotated into different fields. Back in those days, the expense of metal gates was not afforded and other ways of making a gate were applied. A favorite one was a nightmare for a little kid who had the task of bringing the cows home to be milked at night. My brother who was 3 years younger frequently did the task together with me but together we did not make the gate task easier! The gate that I struggled with was made of the same barb wire that enclosed the pasture area for the cows except it had the addition of some posts to stabilize and help it be a gate. This gate was kept closed by the use of wire loops on the end post of the fence it was supposed to meet up with. One loop near the ground on the end fence post to place the end post of the gate in. Another loop at the top of the fence that was to slip over the end post of the gate. It all worked fine for a man with height and muscles to make it stretch into place! But for 2 kids with no adult height or muscles--well, the struggle was very real. I am afraid I shed many tears over not getting the gate closed properly. I am sure that most kids with farm backgrounds can relate to the same struggles!
Thinking of gates and fences leads me to remembering that some fences were electric fences! And this caused even more struggles. Sometimes the electric fences were placed alongside the aging barbed wire fences--to make extra sure that the cows stayed where they belonged. From experience--it is not fun to get a call late at night to come help find the cows that had gone on an excursion into the cornfield. Running at night in tall corn with dewy wet sharp edged corn leaves becomes a painful experience! But that is another story! Two paralleling fences that need to be crossed takes a technique that I sometimes was successful doing and sometimes not! Usually you needed to go over one and under the other depending on the wire spacing. And barbed wire is meant to keep animals in place. So is electric wire! Either one can deliver punishment. And I had scars for a long time after not being successful in my over/under efforts. Accidently touching the electric wire meant to jolt a large animal made me jolt and jerk onto the barbs!
Even as an adult, I apparently could not navigate the electric fence properly. I went out one day to pick some garden produce. I picked nearly a 5 gallon pail of green beans and was at the end of the row. Ahead of me were 3 strands of electric wire placed to keep raccoons out of the sweet corn patch. I had also picked a beautiful green pepper and was planning on giving most of the beans to a local nursing home. I knew the coon fence was ahead and really was planning on respecting it! Instead--I found myself on the ground with at least half the beans to pick up from the dirt, the pepper not nearly as beautiful, the smashed fence—repairable, a knee needing a patch, a left wrist that hurt to move, very glad that the redness on my head could be washed away! And glad that my glasses only needed cleaning and minor adjusting. I was shocked, not so much by the fence as I was by the shock that so much damage could happen in just about 1 second!!
There are many lessons to learn from gates and fences. We put fences in our lives that keep us from God. Those fences are the sins that we want to keep just for us! We keep them corralled so that they can't escape from us; they are handy to pull out whenever we want! Instead we should be happy to have those sins get away from us.
When we touch an electric fence, we get a shock! In this case, when we indulge in sinful things, it causes a shock to our systems. God allows the shock to try to indicate to us to keep away. Yet we often think that the forbidden is more desirable than the sin. Eve certainly did and we are no better. We can't even learn from her or from our past yields to sin and the consequences of yielding.
When I consider the gate stories, I realize that God tries to make it easy to open a gate to get access to Him--just speak and the gate to Him is open and we can go through, into His hearing and presence.
The Devil makes it hard to shut the gate to keep himself out of our lives. The devil will always try to open up the gates to let the sin come into our lives. Just as the boy and even myself had trouble with closing our gates, we just sometimes need some extra help that God is willing to give us. We just need to ask for the Help. Unlike the boy, and myself, when there was no help for us as struggling young kids, we are not left helpless and struggling, unless we refuse to ask and accept the help that He is so ready to give us.
I pray for the determination the young boy had trying to close his gates. I want to determine to keep the gates closed to sin but at the same time, I want to keep them open to letting God guide me in the direction I should go and open to have access to Him at all times. God does not want us to go through needless struggle to keep the gates to sin closed. He is more than willing to help us manage the gate shutting. He does not want to stand by and watch us struggle—but He does want us to ask for help!
Open the gate, shut the gate, open the gate, shut the gate, Give a little push. Open the gate, shut the gate, open or shut, Let God help, help, help!!
God, please guard the gates for me! Help me close them! Keep the devil out!
PS--you may want to enjoy the boy and his gate problems--