I saw the above scene while on a leisurely walk around the neighborhood, and the image turned into a phrase in my mind – the white picket fence fell down (if you think about it, this is actually a perfect metaphor for life) – which turned into a question – What do you do when the white picket fence falls down? – which turned into me having a mini-existential crisis in the middle of the sidewalk on a Saturday afternoon.
What do I know? How could I possibly answer that question for myself, much less for anyone else?
But first, let me backtrack.
You know those scenes in movies where everything gets really bright and blurry and a happy family is together in the yard – kids swinging, dad grilling burgers, and mom serving lemonade? You know – the white picket fence scenes?
The white picket fence has traditionally represented the old American dream – the idea that anything can be yours if you work hard enough: a stable income, a big house on a cul-de-sac, and a luxury car in the driveway. Of course, a loving marriage and thriving kids are also part of the package. And maybe for you that is still the dream.
But maybe the white picket fence, for you, is something else: a job in that city you always dreamed about, news that the cancer is in remission, or a compliment from your stoic parents.
So, what do you do when the white picket fence falls down, when life doesn’t go the way you wanted or planned? What do you do when you can’t get pregnant, when the divorce you didn’t see coming is finalized, or when you are passed over for a promotion yet again?
Well, hell if I know. If you took your cues from me, you’d probably just cry and order a pizza. (Or sulk and watch a Law and Order: SVU marathon.)
If you took your cues from the world at large, you’d have some less than stellar options. You could lose hope and give up. You could wear yourself out trying to repair and rebuild something that needs more help than you can give. You could pretend it never happened. You could hold a grudge and become bitter. You could max out your credit cards, yell at the kids, or pour another drink to numb the pain. There’s got to be a better way.
The truth is that none of us is an expert at coping. We’re all overwhelmed by the fallen fences and, sometimes, even by the standing ones. So what’s a soul to do?
The more I thought about this, the more my question turned into an answer, almost as if a Voice was whispering in my ear:
When the white picket fence falls down, look to the Carpenter.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29) and “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
He also promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27) and “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33).
Rest for the weary, comfort for the mourners, peace for the troubled, and victory for those who struggle. Indeed, look to the Carpenter.