Finding God's Winning Spirit

Walls (Part 1)

March 2, 2015 | Greg Smith | Theology

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Any city worth its salt in the ancient world was surrounded by a wall. Walls were important. The need for a wall around one’s city in those days was an obvious and sound strategy. Walls protected locals from wandering bandits, unfriendly neighbors and enemies of their state. Walls were the first, and unfortunately sometimes, the last line of defense. Some walls were more sophisticated than others as some were very thick, some were very tall and some were even surrounded by moats.

Even though walls provided a level of protection there were also some drawbacks. Although walls protect they also restrict. One problem is that when things hit the fan there is no way out. The wall that keeps the enemy out traps the inhabitants in. An ancient military leader once said, “A walled city is only a tomb with the roof off”.  Walls are defensive in nature; no war has ever been won from behind one.

One of the biggest problems in living behind walls is that it restricts one's visibility. Blocking out civilization does not prevent the world from bearing down on you. In fact, what might feel like tranquility and safety on the one hand may simply be blindness on the other. Due to the fact that very few ancient walls still stand today today I would say any security they provided was in fact false security.  False security is dangerous because it can lead to unpreparedness, complacency or down right denial.  The real problem is once you decide that “wall-building” is the way to go, you never dismantle – wall philosophy requires constant fortifying.  

We may not build defensive walls around our cities any longer but we still put up walls in our personal lives. Much like physical walls these emotional walls (defense mechanisms) have their benefits. As therapists we are taught that all defense mechanisms are not bad and there is real danger in dismantling one before the client has other protection in place. Defense mechanisms (walls) are the first line of defense and are often the saving grace for anyone going through abuse or trauma, young or old.

As with ancient city walls emotional walls have their drawbacks too. Emotional walls do not stand the test of time either and tend to become obsolete.  This initial sense of safety may in fact just be hiding, which only creates anxiety of eventually being found (found out). Defense mechanisms also block our view therefore retarding our ability to evaluate the world around us, and more importantly, the world that is coming at us. Not unlike physical walls, defensive mechanisms are just that – defensive. No one learns and grows by retreating or hiding. The glaring similarity here is that if we tell ourselves that “walls = safety” then we are constantly building them, we become Hermit Crabs always looking for a new shell.

Living our lives anxious, fearful, defensive and blind is not the “abundant life”. How can we protect ourselves without setting up defenses you ask? The answer is not as much about walls as it is about watchtowers.                                

Next week - Watchtowers (Part 2)       

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