Thursday, November 12, 2020

For the Days When You Want to Build Walls

We live in a day and an age of walling people out and walling ourselves in. We make sure we set clear boundaries and indelible demarcation lines, and we are quite sure that all those things will make us happy and fix our problems.

Why do we have these problems? Maybe we ask ourselves that question out loud, and maybe we ask it in our heads, but either way, we just know our problems are the other person, and if we can just keep them farther away from us the troubles will go away. So we keep on picking up the stones or the bricks or the barbed wire or even the pretty little pickets and build the fences higher and stronger to keep all those who would come to ruin our lives out. 

There is no time for appreciating that each person we meet was made just like us -- by a loving Creator. Instead of learning to be friendly with those who live to the right and left of us, the clerks at the grocery store and the gas station, the person who messed up your order at the drive-thru, and the family that sits on the other side of the auditorium, we retreat into our houses. We keep the blinds closed, the curtains pulled, the lights off, and try to find "friends" in the virtual spheres. How often do we rather make new enemies, though?

We scour the internet looking for more articles to support our opinions. We clap each other on the back, and high-five when somebody makes a "smart" comment and makes somebody else look stupid. We watch debates and listen to radio shows and podcasts to fill our minds with all the reasons why we are right and everybody who doesn't think just like us is wrong. We fill our hearts with the fear-mongering and the conspiracy theories, and then wonder why we are anxious and hopeless.

Why do we do such things? Because it is easier. It is hard, hard work to learn to love our neighbors as ourselves. If it was easy, God wouldn't have had to command us to do so. It is much easier to pick up stones and stack them back on top of the fence than to pull down the walls that stand between us and our fellow men. It is difficult work to actually close our mouths and open our ears and listen to what someone else has to say rather than to assume we already know what they are going to say. "What if that person believes something wrong?" you might ask. What if they do? Then you will actually know what they believe rather than just assuming. Sometimes you might be surprised. It might even give you a bit of insight into where you can begin speaking to them about the Truth that matters the most.

It used to be that people had to learn to live with their neighbors. They were the only people they had. They might not think just like them, but in time, with patience and hope, and a good bit of humor thrown in, they learned to share life together. When somebody needed a cup of sugar it was available. When someone needed a doctor, they helped. When a baby died, they wept. When a barn needed raising, they brought their hammers. 
No, many of us don't live in that kind of world anymore, but couldn't we try? Couldn't we, along with the poet, ask, 'Why DO fences make good neighbors?'

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