Take down the walls
“Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
Matthew 5:24 KJV
This past summer in France my family and I happened upon a beautiful hiking trail through vineyards, olive groves and fields of poppies called La Mur de la Peste. It’s 27 kilometers meandered along an old crumbling stone wall. A plaque at the trailhead, erected in 1720, explained the wall had been a barrier between south and north France. A doomed ship had sailed into the southern port of Marseille carrying not only fine silk but also bubonic plague. In a few months over 50,000 French men, women and children died from this disease. Panicking King Louis ordered the wall to be built to keep “la peste” from reaching the heart of France.
My son, Charlie, was incredulous that they believed this wall, that he could easily hop over, could truly stop the spread of bubonic plague.
Today we build walls too. Physical ones but also metaphorical ones. Neither solve the problems. At the first sign of danger or possible heartbreak we start assembling the barricades. Unkind words, cold silence, avoidance, downright meanness all become stones to separate us. Righteously, we claim it is in the name of self-preservation, but we are only pridefully denying a chance for real healing. Resentment, selfishness and hubris are the worst kind of plague because they take us down silently from the inside out.
I am beginning to understand Jesus’s wisdom when after Peter asked him how many times he must forgive his brother who had hurt him, Jesus responded, “Forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Forgiveness requires some serious spiritual muscle. We can say to the one who hurt us, “I forgive you,” but real and lasting forgiveness, the kind that sets us free in mind, body and spirit, must manifest secret within us. With God’s help, we must let go and forgive, and then forgive again and again, more than seventy-seven times to bring the walls down. Let’s not wait until the hourglass is empty, but choose healing for ourselves and those we love here and now. Spiritual maturity manifests in our willingness to resurrect love together. So, tear down your internal walls of self-protection and open your hearts to forgiveness. If you do, others will follow.