Are We Professional Wall Builders?

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July 9, 2012 by Brian

Tonight our discussion of “The Wall,” a parable by Gloria Jay Evans.  The full text of the parable can be found at the bottom of this post.  A three part animated video of The Wall can be found here:  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3 (This is a bit longer than the version we read.  Plus, we had Dwight read ours, and he has a very cool radio announcer voice! Thanks to Dwight, Greg and Jeff for leading this week.)

The author’s intent here was to show the walls we can build around ourselves, individually.  Our group fully understood and agreed with that philosophy.  We also debated the notion that churches often build walls, too.  Sort of an institutional wall, behind which feels much like the individual wall.  At first it feels safe, but ultimately feels lonely and isolated, and is ugly to the passerby.

In the end, we unanimously agreed we are all professional wall builders to some extent, and we need to find a new career.  Here are some of the thoughts and action items the guys shared during our ’round-the-room summary.

I’m a wall builder that needs to look for another career. Not only
recognize problems but offer solutions.

Know that you are always being watched. You are always impacting someone.

Our motto in another group is Listen, listen, love love. No matter what you encounter when meeting a person where they are…try no to be judgmental.

I need to work on being more contagious, and less of a wall builder.

This is my church. HolySmokes is helping me tear down my wall.

I need to ask for help a lot more. I spend so much time polishing the
stones in my wall.

I still have a lot of wall to break down. There are a lot of people to help.

I need to step back and size up the wall that I have. Which stones are
big, which ones are not moveable right now. Start at home. Ask my wife
what my wall looks like. I need to practice patience, being in the moment. I am so
distracted sometimes.

This group and this topic makes me want to work to be a better person. Good stuff.

It breaks my heart people won’t come in to a church. We
have to be vulnerable. Stop focusing on abuses and talk about the good.

I will be examining my own wall. Maybe a bigger deal is the wall between church and people
outside the church. We need to let people know we aren’t perfect. It’s just a lack of
understanding. People assume they are going to be judged.

I can’t do anything about my wall without God’s help. I want to have God use me
for others.

I have had a friend for 16 years and we never talked about God. Because of her health issues, I did, and walls came tumbling down.

Speaking of walls..I didn’t miss the irony of the empty chair. A guy came in here not knowing this was a private meeting, and we had one empty seat.  Rather than inviting him in for a beer, we just let him turn around and walk out.  Maybe we don’t feel
equipped. We should step out. We can change the world.

I can’t make anyone learn something they don’t want to learn. But I can
be a great influence.

Here is the full text of “The Wall.”

I don’t know when I first began to build the wall. I suppose it was when it occurred to me
that I could keep people out of my life by building a simple wall. The wall would be a kind of
boundary – a kind of protection.

At first the little wall was only knee high. It was really quite attractive, made of native stone
I had found in my life. The wall was so small that some people didn’t notice it and would
stumble right over it and fall flat on their faces. Others saw it but would step over it and come very close to me. I found this very uncomfortable. So I built the wall higher.

This was really much better, but I found that some people would come and rest their arms on the wall while they talked to me. Some stayed too long. And some were not my kind of people. And even when I edged the top of the wall with sharp stones, they didn’t seem to notice.

One day one of them vaulted over the wall and stood right inside. This made me angry. I
decided to build the wall higher. As I continued to build, I became more and more self-
sufficient…(and soon) no one could see in or out….

But then I realized that no one had stopped by to talk for some time. Some walked by not
seeming to notice me or my wall. Others stood sadly by and watched me build. I thought they were jealous of my wall, and I resented them – all of them…

Some of my stones were so dear to me that I polished them carefully several times a day.

Then one day I realized the wall was so high that I no longer saw anyone go by….or heard
anyone. “Is there anyone there?” I yelled. There was no answer. It was dark and the air was
foul. I stayed there for a long time. It was quiet and dark and lonely. Only the whispers of my
memories could be heard.

One day, someone yelled form the other side, “Your wall is ugly. It is twisted and gray and
misshapen!” Now, I did not accept this willingly. I liked my wall. In fact, some of the stones
from which I had built it were so dear to me….

It was the day the flower fell at my feet that I began to cry. I ran to the wall and climbed to see who had thrown it over. By the time I reached the top, no one was there. I returned to the flower and sat for a long time looking at its perfection. I began to see the folly of my wall. ”O, I am so alone. My wall is too high and too thick and ugly. ….I have nothing left. Won’t someone help me please?”

Then a strange thing happened. Something inside me stirred like a remembrance of peaceful times passed. An in the stillness of my broken world I knew…God was there, a blessed
presence, that God would come to me, that my darkness had been penetrated by this blessed light…I stood in the joy of this presence. I knew that God had watched me build my wall and that God had waited patiently for me to see it was in vain.

Finally, it occurred to me that the Divine Creator would know why my wall was so ugly. When I asked, God began to teach me…my error. God gave the stones names: “This stone is jealousy. You must remove it.”

Sometimes I would …protest. This was my favorite stone. It was one I had saved and cherished for years. When I was finally ready, God helped me remove the stone…(And so it went, through stones named envy, disillusionment, resentment, childishness, stubbornness, some with God’s help, sometimes with the help of strangers…)

As we removed more stones, the light came in. I felt a hand reaching through a small hole one day.

There was a stranger who walked in one day and told me he had let God tear down his wall. I
told him how I had suffered so and that I would never forget how forsaken and lonely I had felt inside my wall. “Yes,” he said, “self-pity is a terrible thing.” When he left, I found my stone of self-pity in my wall. It was wet with my tears. I dried it off and laid it with the other stones I had taken from the wall.

Overwhelmed by all God had done for me and all God had taught me, I stood on a large
remaining stone and began to tell anyone who passed by what God had done for me. I was
appalled that no one seemed to hear what I was saying…. I noticed others working on walls and ran over to plead with them to stop, but no one would listen.

In my frustration, I lay face down on the stone I had stood upon. It was extremely large, highly polished…it was more than life size. “Do you want the answer to your question?” God asked. “Raise your head, and look at the stone you are lying upon.” I raised my head and gasped for I saw my own reflection in the massive stone. I knew the stone was pride. Quietly, we removed it.

Then God said a strange thing. “Now you must go. I will go with you and yet I will stay here.” I protested, “There are still other stones to remove. I want you here.”

“I said I would go with you. Do you remember the flower that fell at your feet, the hand that
you clasped, and the stranger who showed your self-pity?” “Oh yes”, I sighed. “Oh yes.”

“Then you must go and do likewise. For to whom much (grace) is given, much (grace) is
expected. Wherever you go, I go with you. And whenever you come back here to be tempted, or to remove more stones I will be here for you.”

And so I went out. I saw the walls of others, and when I could, I threw a flower over, or reached my hand through. The walls were unbelievably ugly. I heard great sobs behind the walls and my heart ached. “Won’t you please help this person?” I cried out to God one day.

I returned to my wall and God the Blessed Presence was there. Together we removed the
stones of fear, mistrust, and indifference.

Then God said, “Now you begin to understand love. Without love the things I have told you
would be meaningless. You will begin to live in peace and understanding of all those people
around you whom you thought were not ‘your kind’.”

So it was that I went forth, reaching out – sometimes just waiting beside a wall, sometimes
tossing a flower, sometimes grasping a hand.

One thought on “Are We Professional Wall Builders?

  1. Bill McLaughlin says:

    Hey guys, I have missed attending the holy smokes the last few weeks. Now that I am finally back in town, I look forward to learning and sharing more ideas with everyone. On this weeks topic, it is amazing to think about our different ways of blocking people out by building a metaphorical wall. I have gone through many different phases of this and like many of you said I have polished some of my stones to a bring shine. After reading this parable, I now realize that I still have more polished stones standing in front of me than I need and I must work with God to knock them down.

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