My grandson is eager to show me his. “Come see my teepee,” he says as he runs through the fallen leaves in his large back yard. When we come to the structure, he hunkers down inside. It’s really just an arrangement of branches made by my son. But I can see how proud my grandson is of it.
In my boyhood, it was a tree house that was my secret place, perched in the spreading arms of a great beech. All a hidden space needed was an enclosure – someplace to feel apart from the world and safe.
A simple line from Isaiah has me thinking about walls. Let me put this into context, though. Here’s the passage it culminates:
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:14-16)
It’s a heartwarming portrait of the steadfastness of God’s love. His dedication to his people is stronger and purer than the highest of human affections. He carries a reminder of them engraved on his hands – a more permanent version of the human dedication in 44:5 (“others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s.”)
But it’s the last line of the above passage that has settled down into my meditative mind: your walls are ever before me.
In Scripture, walls should be thought of by what they keep out and what they keep in. In keeping out danger, walls signify security and safety. But walls also, in the process of enclosing, provide a sense of belonging, of identity, of community.
The cry of abandonment in verse 14 comes out of the reality of broken walls and the loss of protection and identity.
Who are the ones with broken walls today? The Lord has been pressing this question to me this week. It feels like the pandemic has had the opposite effect: reinforced our walls, causing us to stay hidden inside our secure places. But this highlights the plight of many who are not sheltered from trouble – those without employment, the isolated elderly, those longing for a sense of belonging. So many others.
God reminds me that when we belong to him, our walls are ever before him. He has engraved us into his hands – he carries our need for peace and belonging with him constantly.
Jesus is that safe and secret place we long for.
Lord, we pray for those who have broken walls, those who feel exposed, in danger, fearful, alone, abandoned. Draw them into the security of your embrace. Let them experience your great love – undying, unchanging, unequalled.
Reader: What is the most dramatic broken wall you’ve seen? Tell me about it.