Intention #4: Break Down the Walls
When it comes to building walls, I am a master. But don’t hand me a nail gun and a two-by-four. That’s not my sort of wall. No, I am an expert at building invisible walls.
About a decade ago, I built a rebar-reinforced concrete wall between a Children’s Pastor and myself. I had been tasked with aligning the Vacation Bible School curriculum our church had purchased with the church’s philosophy of ministry and theology. In my recent-seminary-grad-zeal, I may have gone a bit overboard in my changes and found myself drowning in the amount of work and responsibility I had assumed.
The night before VBS started, I discovered a tremendous amount of work had gone undone because I had assumed a certain team had responsibility for it. I had no idea that another team existed for that task. I was furious that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I blamed the Children’s Pastor for poor leadership and lack of communication.
And out of my frustration, I built a wall between the two of us. I didn’t want to work with her ever again. I wasn’t eager to learn about my missteps in handling the project. I didn’t want to hear about my failures and opportunities for growth. Instead, I labeled her as a problem and threat and constructed a wall to keep her out.
I carefully craft my invisible walls to minimize injury and maximize self-preservation. Who wants to go through the pain of conflict resolution? Who wants to go through the stress of poor project planning and execution again? Not me!
Unfortunately, I tend to build my walls on the shoddy foundations of fear and frustration. And these walls, instead of keeping me safe, actually begin to wear me down because I have never dealt with the underlying problems–whether they be my problems or our problems.
Lately, I have been studying the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve noticed a glaring omission. Jesus forgot to say, “Build walls between one another so that you can live a peaceful life.”
The human race in general, and Christians, in particular, can be quite skilled at creating walls between themselves and others.
I disagree with you. WALL.
I don’t like your kind of people. WALL.
You annoy me. WALL.
You betrayed my trust. WALL.
This year, I intend to be a wall breaker. Here are three steps I’m taking to break down walls:
1. Notice the Walls – I can build invisible walls so quickly that sometimes I fail to notice them. Noticing the walls I’ve built requires reflection on my relationships. Is something keeping from giving my whole self to someone and serving them? If so, perhaps I’ve built a wall.
2. Chisel Away – Breaking down walls can be labor intensive, especially when they’re made of rebar-reinforced concrete as opposed to two-by-fours and drywall. First, I recall that the person on the other side of my wall bears God’s image and can show me more of who God is. Then, I chisel away by inviting the other person to share their story, listening well, and doing tangible acts of kindness.
3. Stop Building – I need to develop a habit of laying down my hammer. Instead of being an instant wall-builder, I need to choose first to give others the benefit of the doubt. I need to choose first to show empathy and love.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus highlights the importance of being peacemakers and reconcilers. He even calls us to love our enemies. Our invisible walls have no place in the Kingdom of God.