Recently, we did an object lesson as part of our Resilience-based series that I call “the Wall.” We talked about how bad things happen in this world despite having a loving God that looks over us. We make bad choices at times that hurt us, and others make bad choices that hurt us. In general, there is a lot of brokenness in relationships that causes a lot of damage.
So, I told the children, we learn how to protect ourselves. Just like castles have BIG walls or our cottages on campus have thick walls, we build walls around our hearts. While we still feel hurt from time to time, by building a wall and keeping people out of our hearts (and away from how we are truly feeling), we stay safe. We survive.
However, I told the children, something unfortunate happens. We find someone that we want to let into our hearts. They show us love and care and grace in ways we hadn’t experienced from others. That sounds good, right? But, you know what the unfortunate part is?
[The children instinctively knew, because this has been their experience!]
The walls we used to protect us from bad things getting in and hurting our hearts more also keep good things out. We can’t let our parents, our teachers, our friends, or our counselors… whoever it might be… into our hearts to see them as they really are: hurting, broken, but desperately wanting love and acceptance. That’s more than unfortunate… it’s tragic!
So, we might get frustrated that the wall keeps them out, and they might get frustrated too, because they see our need and want to meet it, but can’t ever get in. So, we fear it is all going to turn out awful. Maybe that person we want to let in gets so fed up being on the other side of the wall that they leave… and we hurt again and tell ourselves:
“Well, that was dumb of me! I just thought about taking my wall–my defenses–down, and look what it got me. Nothing but more hurt and pain.”
So, we build another layer to the wall… we make it thicker and stronger.
This seems like a real story, doesn’t it? Maybe this is your story?
But, as I told the children, there is another story, that if considered, just might make all the difference. That story is the story of God’s love shown to us through Jesus. Jesus came to show us a better way. It was so important to him that we understand God’s love that he was willing to be put to death by the angry people that couldn’t accept what he was saying about God! And, miracle of all miracles, Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning, giving us hope that nothing ever has to separate us from God’s love.
Consider what the Jesus follower named Paul, who once had a REALLY big wall up between himself and others, wrote about the love of God he had come to understand and experience:
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? …Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins…
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.“ [Romans 8:32-39, The Message]
But, what about that wall? If nothing can separate us from God’s love… that wall is going to have to come down. We can start by letting Jesus in, and together, working with God to remove the wall brick by brick until we can let others in, too. We built the wall, but it’s too strong for us to tear down on our own. We need help. We need God’s help. And, God wants to help us, but we have to ask him.
By this time many children were nodding their heads. This made sense. They understood the walls they had placed in the way for God and others to come in and bring healing to their heavy and hurting hearts.
We closed our time by writing things down on our “bricks” [wooden blocks, really] and building a wall. Here is what a few of the children wrote:
“Lord, help me talk about my feelings.”
“I’ve been hurt MANY times.”
“I am afraid of loving people.”
Once our wall was built, we said a prayer, and pushed the wall over together. Please, if you are reading this, take the time to pray for our children:
“Lord, help those children who–in order to survive–have built walls around their hearts that are now keeping out the very people they need to let in. Strengthen their resolve to do the hard work of sharing their feelings, help them learn what a healthy relationship looks like, and may they come to a place where they can both experience and express the love they so desire. Meet them right where they are, Lord, and help them accept your love and grace. Amen.”
P.S. As part of our lesson time, we watched the following video from 1991… a little dated, but the song was just perfect for our kids!