The Picket Fence

I once built a fence with my father-in-law. We lived on a corner lot with three active little kids. So even though money was extremely tight, I scraped enough together to buy the lumber and build a sturdy fence to keep our rambunctious ones in the yard. It took a few days of hard labor, but we completed it together - one board at a time!

One board at a time is how both fences and friendships are built. That takes a long time, but sturdy fences and friendships are worth it. As Kenny Rogers once said, “You can’t go out and make old friends, you either have them or you don’t!”

Quality friendships and deep relationships require the risk of trust. Trust is like a picket fence - it can come down quickly but can only be rebuilt slowly, if at all. Sadly, shattered relationships are all too common, even among believers.

Sooner or later, all human relationships will be stress-tested. Over time, flaws will always be revealed. That’s why we’re told in John 2:24, “But Jesus would not trust himself to them, for he knew all men.” Oswald Chambers wisely said, “Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.”

Only God can be God to us and worthy of the weight of our absolute eternal trust. This is the point of Psalm 91:2, “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” No one but God is capable of perfection, and He is the only rock we can rely on 24/7 both for now and forever. No one else will always be perfect, even those who
sincerely seek to be!

We all take turns letting people down. Sometimes it’s just an inadvertent oversight, other times it might even be a matter of deliberate betrayal. Imperfections are inevitable. However, there’s a big difference between the relational stress that comes from a simple oversight such as, “Oops I forgot to return your call!” - and an entrenched pattern of self protection or deceit.

A colleague of mine once said, “I’ve lied to you for ten years, but I will never lie to you again.” What if a fellow believer severely violated your trust, and after being discovered, said that to you? How would you respond? While you would sincerely offer forgiveness and wish the brother well, would you once again fully trust him?

A decade of deceit can’t simply be overcome with a sincere apology, much less ever be completely erased. We’ve all had our share of relational disappointments and trust-shattering experiences. I identified with Aaron Brocket when he said, “I have at times been too enamored by someone’s gifts and therefore blinded to their lack of character.”

We’ve learned the hard way that relationships can only be built, or rebuilt, slowly. Trust must be earned. As King David wrote, “I will search for faithful people to be my companions.” (Psalm 101:6)

Relationships only grow at the speed of trust. The best ones are devoid of both self promotion and self protection.

Five years ago I was in a Covenant Group that soon went deep. While we all knew each other prior, our relationships grew far beyond anything we had experienced together before. They reached the point where we had no secrets.

We breathed the rare air of trust. One of the guys closed our three-year soul care journey by saying, “I can’t believe it took me well into my sixties to finally experience something like this!”

It’s never too soon to start building relationships of trust, and it’s never too late to begin - or to begin again - one board at a time.

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