No More Fences
by Walker Hayes & Craig Allen Cooper
A little over a year ago, my wife, Laney, and I were house shopping. We had the kids out with us and were hopping from neighborhood to neighborhood dreaming out loud. We had been in the same house for about fifteen years and were honestly pretty settled. Still, we enjoyed playing “what-if” from time to time, looking around at what was available. We found this brand-new home we loved; it was right outside of Nashville, and we called our friends Craig and Laura Cooper to swing by and check it out with us. They loved it too! While we were looking at the new construction, Laura mentioned that her neighbor was about to put their house on the market. We had been to the Coopers’ house a zillion times but never really noticed what the house next door looked like. Laura called her neighbor and asked if we could have a little impromptu showing. We felt bad swinging by while they were in the house and before they’d even had a chance to put a “for sale” sign up.
The family was super sweet to let us drop in. It was a couple with three kids and a dog and a cat or two. And they were all just hanging around while we looked through the house. It was actually pretty nice to tour it fully furnished and while life was happening. I could easily imagine our crew living there. So much so that I literally took a look at the family room, walked back outside, and called our financial advisor! I just knew. Laney and the kids continued to look around inside and upstairs while I figured out how to make an offer on a house. It had been a while since I’d done that.
I can’t tell you how weird this act of spontaneity was for me. I mean, I have always been impulsive and spontaneous and historically have made many large decisions on complete whims, but me choosing to live close to someone was not what I did. Maybe Jesus was turning this island into something else.
And the Coopers actually wanted us to live next door! That blows my mind. I’m telling you, we look cute on the ‘Gram but in person, we’re a lot. However, the Coopers didn’t bat one eye at the inevitable problems that come with real community. They actually invited us.
The week we moved in, the country shut down because of COVID. It was nothing short of miraculous how smoothly the move went and how much we would need each other during the year-long lockdown. We quarantined together. I have no idea what the Hayes kids and the Cooper kids would have done without each other. I have no idea what I would have done without Craig and what Laney would have done without Laura. Our kids started a band, Craig and I wrote songs, and Laura and Laney did puzzles. I found out I’m pretty awesome at dominoes.
One of the first nights we were there, we all stood in our backyards embracing the wonderful fact that we could step outside and see each other. Craig and I were talking on my back porch and decided the fence needed to come down.
We tried our best to take a section of the fence out the right way, then gave up and just ripped it out. And that’s exactly what happened in our friendship. The walls had come down. Two complete strangers were neighbors, were family. Nothing between us, just Christ, bringing us toward community and toward Himself.
It took me and Walker about half an hour to rip out a section of the fence that separated our two backyards. It was one of the first things we did together after his family moved into the house next door.
We were sitting on the back porch of their new home drinking coffee and talking about how incredible it was that after years of friendship, we were now brothers in Christ and next-door neighbors. Walker looked left toward my home and said, “Let’s surprise the girls and take out a section of that fence.” My eyes lit up, and we both jumped to our feet and ran immediately to the fence to do the deed. Over the years, our wives, Laura and Laney, have jokingly called us dreamers. In that moment, we were both doers. As the fence link was enthusiastically removed and stored away, the path connecting our homes officially formed.
Walker and I have talked a lot about that fence. The spot is both literal and symbolic for us. We can review the details of our lives and see how the gospel—the good news that brings believers into a relationship with God—has broken down barriers for us and has brought us together like the ripping out of the fence between our homes. This path is one of personal failures and the faithfulness of God. It’s a path of rejection and redemption. It’s a path of loss and love. And it’s a path well-worn with pain uniting us to each other and to God.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus is the Savior, the path to true and lasting meaning in this life and the next. He is the way.
When I step out of our back deck and see how the grass has been worn by the daily pitter-pattering of fourteen pairs of feet (and our collective dogs), I just look down at that path and smile. I think of Jesus, who He is and what He has done for us, and I rejoice that the gospel He brings breaks down barriers that separate us from God and each other. Jesus welcomes us to His table, just as we are, and the hospitality we enjoy there with Him breaks down walls and tears out fences.
Adapted from Glad You’re Here: Two Unlikely Friends Breaking Bread and Fences by Walker Hayes & Craig Allen Cooper (© 2022). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.