A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

The other day a service man left my backyard gate open. My little dachshund Schatzi could have easily escaped to the vast, threatening world outside if I had not seen it and closed it.

It reminded me of a day long ago when my father and I were horseback in one of the back pastures on his small farm. His horse, MacArthur, knew exactly what to do when we came to a gate. He stood quietly while Daddy unlatched the gate. We rode through it, and again MacArthur stood quietly while he latched the gate again.

“Libby,” Daddy said earnestly, “always close the gate. If the gate is left open, every cow in the pasture will get out.” A single gate open? And every cow get out? Yes!

There’s a parable there.

A woman came to me one day for counsel. Her eyes were red and swollen with tears. “I don’t break my marriage vows,” she sobbed. “I don’t lie. I don’t steal. I’m not that kind of woman.”

“But—?” I asked apprehensively.

“I am that kind of woman,” she whispered. “It was innocent enough in the beginning. I just flirted with a man at work. And then we started sneaking around, and I lied to my husband. I took money from the petty cash fund at work to cover up what I was spending. Oh, Libby! I’m not that kind of a woman!”

But she was. She left the gate of her heart open, and through that open gate her integrity slipped out and every temptation swarmed into her vulnerable, divided heart. That’s why God tells us to “bring every thought into captivity.”

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [our physical resources]
but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself
against the knowledge of God,
bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Job, the man Satan tried so hard to lead into sin. said, at the height of his temptation, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman” (Job 31:1) Job said he’d promised himself and God that he would not leave the gate of his heart open to temptation. The gate, left even half open, makes you vulneratble to every kind of temptation.

But that’s not the end of the story, thank God! For He so graciously said, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). God’s grace and forgiveness are available to every repentant sinner. So this dear woman came back to Jesus, confessing she was “that kind of woman.” She asked His forgiveness and cleansing, and set out to live for Him and be the kind of woman she yearned to be.

The moral of this “parable”? If you come to my house, for Schatzi’s sake, please keep the gate to the back yard closed.

And if, after thinking about it, you should discover the gate of your conscience has been left ajar, talk to the Lord Jesus about it. Fasten it tight, and make a covenant with God to guard it well.