Once there was an astounding castle owned by the Castlereagh family, one of the most princely residences in Ireland.
But the ancient home fell into decay, and the usual happened: When peasants wanted to repair a road or even construct a pigsty, they scavenged stone from the old dwelling.
The stones were already craftily cut, available without digging and carrying for long distances.
When the descendant and heir, Lord Londonderry, visited his castle, he determined to end immediately the theft of the stones.
This was not only his legacy, but also one of the greatest glories of Ireland. So, he gave orders to his agent that the castle be enclosed with a six-foot wall, believing this would keep out the thieves.
Years later, he returned. To his astonishment, the castle was gone, vanished into thin air. In its place, a huge wall stood enclosing nothing.
He sent for his agent and asked why his orders had been ignored. The agent insisted that the job had been done.
“But where is the castle?” Londonderry asked.
“The castle?” his agent replied. “I built the wall with it, my lord. Why should I go for miles to get materials when the finest stones in Ireland are beside me?”
Sometimes the walls we build ultimately destroy the very thing we want to protect.
We live in a vulnerable world. It’s tempting to withdraw.
The last thing many people want is to feel unprotected and emotionally exposed. So, they put up walls to shield against threats or even uncomfortable conversations.
Churches can be guilty of putting up buildings and creating subcultures that seem remote from everyday life, in spite of Jesus’ way to live among the most vulnerable.
Our buildings can become walls that corrupt the way within, which was never really about church, but always about being a blessing to the world.
Vulnerability is openness to the possibility of being wounded. Paradoxically, it’s essential to reconciliation and healing.
In his book, “A Different Drum,” M. Scott Peck said, “There is no way that we can live a rich life unless we are willing to suffer repeatedly, experiencing depression and despair, fear and anxiety, grief and sadness, anger and the agony of forgiving, confusion and doubt, criticism and rejection.”
He added, “A life lacking these emotional upheavals will not only be useless to ourselves, it will be useless to others. We cannot heal without being willing to be hurt.”
Our world needs healing. I need healing, and so do you.
Jesus taught that the only way to be healed – the only way to salvation – is through vulnerability.
Like many communities, people are constantly remodeling in the neighborhood in which my congregation is located. Walls are torn down, new structures built up, fences growing higher.
As our community engages in this remodeling process, it raises questions for our congregations:
What walls need to come down? How do racism, classism and fear keep us from being good neighbors? What about in your life? What risky, brave thing do you need to do?
Vulnerability isn’t weakness. It’s strength.
Brent McDougal is senior pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas. A version of this article first appeared on Cliff Temple’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @BrentMcDougal.
Brent McDougal is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.