Walls are interesting. Throughout history walls have been built around cities and forts and communities to keep those inside safe from the dangers outside. They serve to keep the elements out of our homes and separate our homes into personal spaces. Internally we have hall learned the fine art of building walls for many of the same reasons. We keep people out that we deem unsafe or unfit for us. Sometimes we keep them out entirely; other times we keep relegate them to one particular “room.” We use walls to forget our past when we are full of regret.
There is a saying that is often repeated when things get difficult and we are stuck in a situation. I know I’ve used it. We say, “I’ve come up against a wall.” It’s just another use of that word again; only here it is used as something put up to keep us out instead of something else.
Recently I came up against a wall… literally. In fact I came up against several of them as my family and I ran an obstacle course race together. On Saturday I ran a ten mile race with my friend, and on Sunday I ran five more miles with my wife and oldest daughter. These walls started out small: about 5 foot. The next one was six, then eight, then ten. I haven’t mentioned the inverted wall that we had to climb (it was angled back toward us) or the traverse wall climb that had us scaling the sides of three walls connected end to end in a Z formation. These walls, like the ones mentioned above, were put there as obstacles to slow us down and wear us down; to test our endurance and will power.
What I noticed was that many of us running the race didn’t have the strength to pull ourselves over the tops of walls. After several miles, our endurance was low and our will was weak. The walls seemed as if they would win. And this is where victory was claimed.
For every person that was ready to give up and take the shame of not completing an obstacle there were ten others shouting encouragement, offering assistance and cheering them on. As my family encountered each obstacle, we did so together. We lifted one another. We built one another up. No one was left behind to fail. No one was left to shame.
This image resonated with me because it so exemplifies the church’s purpose and identity. Paul wrote about this very thing in Ephesians 4. We are equipped by God to build each other up and to do so in love. In our actions and in our words we are to look like those racers on that course. We stay by our wounded. We never shame one another. We only put forth the effort and words that will make the body of Christ stronger. This is what it truly means for the family and the church to be together. And it is this characteristic that will strengthen our individual selves, our marriages, our families, and our churches. So put out your hands and your voices, and help each other over the walls that exist in our lives.