Hemmed In

Your Hand Upon Me, Eric Grover.


My precious mother is sentimental. The ping-pong table, which is in the basement of the farmhouse where I grew up, is her quilting workstation, at which she is surrounded by colorful stacks and luscious wardrobes of fabric. The old beloved Barbie house Dad built for my sister and I no longer houses the Sunshine Family or Barbie furniture; rather, it is a repurposed shelving unit for sewing paraphernalia, antiques, and other such sundries. Mom, who is a self-proclaimed packrat, is known to have said “You never know when you’ll need that, and no sooner will I throw it out that I or you kids will have need for it.” Her own mother had lived through the Depression and had been widowed, so I have no doubt from where the tendrils of these tendencies have sprouted. 

Though decidedly the renegade minimalist, I have humbly conceded that I inherited a strain of that sentimentality. I find that I will pine and grieve over the figurative features and small shifts in life, at times. Really small. Like a rotted, dilapidated fence. 

It was among the old charms that endeared me to our new home, and although it was a project I figured we would tackle eventually, it had moved up on the priority list when a friend in need of work had unsuccessfully tackled the tedious task, leaving our lawn replete with piles of leaves, clumps of clay, and nary a post undug. In my own efforts of cleaning up, I took matters into my own hand to “fix the unfixing of the fence.” Parts were so rotted and dilapidated that I could break the whole post out of the ground, and yet I grieved to see it go, especially because I knew it would be some time before we could replace it. What was it about the visual security of this Psalm 62:3 “tottering fence” that endeared me and spoke comfort to my senses?  It obviously needed to come down! But I had loved the plot of earth we now lived on from a distance before we ever dreamed we would live here. I had loved every stone, nook, cranny, and dilapidated fence, to boot. 

The concept of being hemmed in is more than a Psalm 139 triteness, where the Psalmist woos us with the comforting metaphor of our Creator-God hemming us in verse 5:  You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me (NKJV). There is security in our relationship with God. Sometimes, too, perhaps what surfaces is our superficial means of keeping our insecurities out of the public eye, so we also like to put up security systems that are really just tottering fences. In her book 40 Days of Decrease, Dr. Alicia Britt Chole speaks of a “visual thinning” that calls us to simplify, not amplify. Releasing those things in order to hold more of the spaciousness of God. And this is what helps me find resolution in those spaces where I just want to hold onto the sentimental. “The simplifying of our visual environment helps us to settle into a contemplative mood and encourages us to focus” (Chole, 169). 

Sometimes, it is necessary to tear down before one can build up; then, He takes us to wide and open spaces.

He brought me out into a spacious place;

He rescued me because He delighted in me.

Psalm 18:19

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