A Hole in the Fence that Became a Door

A year ago I rented a small home with a fence filled with woody knots, some of which were knocked out leaving perfectly oval holes.  There was nothing unusual about this particular fence except for the little eyes I discovered shyly peering into my yard. I was the new object of interest to a boy named Jack. Within a month of unpacking I met Jack’s dad and mom, Dave and Kathy Smith. We were really enjoying our first conversation until I unwittingly dropped a social bombshell, my occupation. “You’re a pastor of a church?!” they exclaimed. Maybe they thought I was going to splash them with holy water, dance around a fire in a white gown, or rebuke them for an untidy yard.  I didn’t have time to ask, the Smith family leapt back over to their side of the fence. Curious peeks through the fence, distant smiles and furtive waves continue- actual visits did not.

Several weeks later I noticed Kathy along the fence while working in my yard. We had barely exchanged greetings when Kathy blurted out “I just don’t get how you can reconcile science to religion.” I looked up from my garden and warmly replied, “Well, why don’t we talk about that?” Over the following months I became friends with the Smith family. We often talked about everything from gardening to grilling, splashed in with a little about God. To Dave and Kathy, God was a curious and potentially dangerous thing to even discuss. Around this time I married my wife Bec and the Smith family came to our wedding. We began to share meals, visit the theatre, help each other fix up our yards, and once we even launched a toy rocket into the neighbor’s house (Jack loved that day). We continued to talk about questions surrounding God and faith during our neighborly encounters.

One evening Dave and Kathy told me they felt very lonely, tears rolled down Kathy’s red cheeks as she explained how they wanted to be a part of community and “something more”. Dave looked a little embarrassed but nodded while adding, “You seem to be onto a good thing at church, is there space for us?” I invited the Smith family to come and see what my church community was doing. Although Dave and Kathy weren’t too sure about God they liked all the community projects and quality friends they could met along the way. First, they helped organize hundreds of boxes for emergency food hampers, another time Dave surprised me with a truck load of cookies for the homeless.  Then several friends in our church held a fundraiser dinner for an orphanage. The Smith family loved a part of an exciting dinner party that raised funds towards a good and redemptive purpose.

Last week I strolled across my yard to chat with Dave and Kathy. Through the hole in my fence Jack spotted me coming and joyfully called out my name. I explained how I would soon move into a new home down the road. “We wish you would stay! Please, don’t forget about us! We really want to keep sharing our lives together!” Dave and Kathy may feel they know more about gardening than God but over the last year they’ve been catching the vision of God’s good plans and purposes for the world, including their lives.  For the Smith family, new meaning and community all began with curious peeks through a little hole in my wood fence.

“Come and See”….(John 1:35-51).

Ryan Vallee


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