But I am ahead of myself in this story. Let me ground my snowy walk today in the Scripture that initiated it.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:12)
This comes at the end of the Lord’s “The Fast That I Choose” message. It’s an easy-to-overlook verse, but it grabbed me. For years, I’ve been interested in renaming references in the Bible. This one (really more of a re-titling) piqued my curiosity. What does repairing broken walls mean, metaphorically?
So, I went out to the places in my town that had stone ruins. This is Central PA, not Bavaria, so there are no tumbling turrets. But there is a wonderful stone wall in the river park. (It’s quite a popular photo op spot.)
In Isaiah’s context, raising foundations, repairing walls and restoring streets with houses all speak to getting settled back in the land after being conquered and taken captive. Symbolically, these pictures reiterate finding a place and permanence. To have walls around oneself is to feel secure.
We often think of walls as dividing people. But walls can also comfort and connect us to others. Safety can lead to a sense of belonging to a larger “us.”
I move from there to these strange monoliths on the edge of our downtown. I suppose they might have been supports for a railroad long ago. Or stables of some kind.
The long individual shadows they throw remind me the isolation of the past year. And of the breakdown of community. Insecurity has a way of doing that. But those of us who claim to know the Lord must have spiritual lives that lead toward building up others, particularly the most vulnerable in our society. That’s the point of the passage in Isaiah.
Which brings me back to the chalk. Someone has tucked a bit of sidewalk chalk into a decaying part of the concrete. It’s an invitation for me to draw, to make my own temporary graffiti.
I want to be a wall-repairer. In a way, my Zoom calls to friends and relatives, as well as my prayers for them, are like walking along crumbling walls and putting back in place the stones that haven fallen out. It sure feels like shoring to me.
But, ultimately, Jesus is the one who promises the security of a place within his Father’s house (John 14:2). He is the ultimate stone mason. The supreme builder. Was he not known as a carpenter while on earth? (Mark 6:3)
If we are to be called Repairer of Broken Walls, it’s because it is our true family name.
Lord, forgive us for how often our spiritual lives are all about the wrong things. When our practices produce nothing but powerless rituals. Transform us by our disciplines. Make us into people who do your work of restoration and reclamation.
Reader: Do you have a picture of your favorite crumbling wall? Want to share it with me?