The White Picket Fence
When I was in Indonesia, a man who had committed his entire life to serving God in a slum shared with me how he never wanted the “white picket fence” version of Christianity. From there I embarked on a journey to discover what that actually looks like, gathering the ideas of believers in the bible and from those living in some of the hardest places to be a Christian today.
So what does a white picket fence symbolise?
It was first used during the American colonial era and has become a symbol of the ideal middle class suburban life. The husband, the 2.5 kids, the car, the house and the white picket fence wrapped around. It is symbolic of security - a word I don’t often associate with faith. It represents a decision to live a comfortable, limited Christian life. With all the luxuries and none of the sacrificial elements of faith Jesus spoke about.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24
Part of my job as a writer with my own business but also at Open Doors, is telling the story of the persecuted church. Every week I receive stories of believers willing to sacrifice their lives to share the gospel with ISIS, or those bound by their dictator in North Korea. One man even shared how he had decided to grow his beard out long enough to disguise himself as an IS fighter. He would slip into the prisons where they were keeping Christians and last year alone helped over 200 believers escape. Another man had his family abducted because he became a Christian. They threatened to kill his wife and children if he didn’t deny God. He refused, believing he would rather suffer the consequences than live a life without Jesus.
Reading these stories just blew my mind and convinced me that they were living the furthest thing from comfortable Christianity. Their faith was radical. They are people who understand what it means to suffer and yet remain committed to Christ. And yet, here we are scared to even pray before a meal at a restaurant in case people look at us weirdly. So I began to condemn the white picket fence.
But what if there was more to it?
It was only in recent weeks that God decided to shed some light on my journey as I talked about it with a friend. “But some picket fences were painted with blood." she said.
I was taken back by its truth. The thing is, some fences look perfect from the front, but at back they’re held together by nails. Jesus has brought us all out of something to make our fences white and new. It doesn’t necessarily mean we settled, or have forsaken a bold faith for one of complacency. It just means we cannot judge the white picket fence of our neighbour. Although their life may appear comfortable from our point of view, they could be stretched in ways we cannot see. They may have walked through many storms and that fence… that white little fence is their victory cry - that they made it through the night!
Finally, what truly distinguishes a picket fence is the pointed shape at the top. The design is meant to mimic the pointed stakes historically used by infantry to repel the attacks of the cavalry. What if our white picket fence was no longer a symbol of comfort, but of protection and defence?
Our fences have been painted by the blood of Christ, and now symbolise a life made new. A faith that still takes risks and works itself out boldly. What if, at the end of the day, our white picket fence was there to remind us that our faith isn’t based on our own actions and sacrifice? But that our faith is based solely on the sacrificial blood of Christ.
About Bethany Ross
Bethany Ross is a 22-year old journalist originally from small town Bowral and currently part of the team at C3 Cronulla. With her camera wielding boyfriend, she co-founded The Messengers Global and is currently telling stories from all over the world. She prefers to be in a slum or warzone over a coffee shop or mall any day. Her heart burns for uniting the Global Church and empowering world changers through story.