The cost of walls

Once there was an astounding castle owned by the Castlereagh family, one of the most princely residences in Ireland. But the ancient home fell into decay. The usual happened. When peasants wanted to repair a road or even construct a pigsty, they scavenged stone from the old dwelling. The stones were already craftily cut, available without digging and carrying for long distances.

When the descendant and heir Lord Londonderry visited his castle, he determined to immediately end the theft of the stones. This was not only his legacy, but also one of the greatest glories of Ireland. So he gave orders to his agent that the castle be enclosed with a six-foot wall, believing this would keep out the thieves.

Years later he returned. To his astonishment, the castle was gone, vanished into thin air. In its place, there was a huge wall enclosing nothing. He sent for his agent and asked why his orders had been ignored. The agent insisted that the job had been done.

“But where is the castle?” asked Londonderry.

“The castle? I built the wall with it, my Lord! Why should I go for miles to get materials, when the finest stones in Ireland are beside me?”

Sometimes the walls we build ultimately destroy the very thing we want to protect.

We live in a vulnerable world. It’s tempting to withdraw. The last thing many people want is to feel unprotected and emotionally exposed. So they put up walls to shield against threats or even uncomfortable conversations.

Churches can be guilty of putting up buildings and creating subcultures that seem remote from everyday life, in spite of Jesus’ approach — living among the most vulnerable. Our buildings can become walls that corrupt the way within, which was never really about church, but always about being a blessing to the world.

Vulnerability is openness to the possibility of being wounded. Paradoxically, it’s essential to reconciliation and healing.

In “A Different Drum,” M. Scott Peck wrote, “There is no way that we can live a rich life unless we are willing to suffer repeatedly, experiencing depression and despair, fear and anxiety, grief and sadness, anger and the agony of forgiving, confusion and doubt, criticism and rejection. A life lacking these emotional upheavals will not only be useless to ourselves, it will be useless to others. We cannot heal without being willing to be hurt.”

Our world needs healing. I need healing, and so do you.

Jesus taught that the only way to be healed — the only way to salvation — is through vulnerability.

In north Oak Cliff, people are constantly remodeling. Walls are torn down, new structures built up, fences growing higher. As our community engages in this remodeling process, what walls need to come down? How do racism, classism and fear keep us from being good neighbors?

What about in your life? What brave thing do you need to do?

Brent McDougal  is pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church. The Worship section is a regular feature underwritten by Advocate Publishing and by the neighborhood business people and churches listed on these pages. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.