A dirt clod tumbled past my hand as it gripped the small protruding root of an old elm tree desperately hanging on to the eroding hillside. I could smell the mouth-watering boneless, rib-eye steaks grilling on a built in BBQ pit just beyond the wall overhead. Like a scene from the ever-popular Looney Tunes cartoons that materialized from the television set in my living room every Saturday morning, the smoke from the BBQ pit formed an upside-down hand with one finger beckoning me to advance up the hill.
“You’re almost there Shawn!” yelled my brother, now standing on a narrow ledge next to a ten-foot, brick wall at the top of the hill. “There’s a tree over here we can use.”
My brother was the first to look over the wall. He climbed the tree and then boosted himself up in order to grab the edge of the wall. Securing a foothold on a small outcropping of mortar in the wall, Chad Vander Lugt peered over into the Promised Land—the home of a wealthy doctor. All we knew of this man was that he drove a Porsche convertible, he never waved to us while we were riding our bikes at the entrance of his private drive, and he didn’t have a lot of hair. His house was amazing though. He had a built in BBQ pit, a crystal blue swimming pool, gorgeous women sun-bathing in bright white bikinis, and two Doberman Pinchers guarding the perimeter of his property—as if the ten-foot wall wasn’t enough. It was like a scene from Magnum P.I.
Chad and Shawn Vander Lugt loved to dream about someday living on the other side of that wall, frolicking in the crystal blue waters of paradise, hosting beautiful models in snow-white bikinis, driving pretentious cars, and treating kids on bicycles like they were beneath us. That was the dream. If only we could overcome the walls that lay before us.
Walls!? I’ve heard a lot of talk about walls lately. From an orange clown on television talking about building an impossible wall between us and our friendly neighbors to the south to my next door neighbor complaining that the wall between him and his neighbor to the east just isn’t tall enough. Why are we constantly talking about building walls when God wants nothing more than to tear them down?
I was seven years old when I dreamed of owning material items and living the life of a pretentious, egotistical doctor. The wall between reality and that dream of wealth and material possessions thankfully no longer exists. However, I still have my fair share of walls…and my loved ones still have their walls as well. For me, the walls I want to overcome are walls of loneliness, walls of not being able to effectively communicate with people I love, walls of past hurts, addictions, and self-destructive tendencies, walls that stand between me and healthy relationships with God, family, friends, and lovers. I don’t want these walls; I want them destroyed. Currently, my amazing mother has a wall standing before her; a wall we all want to come crashing down. How can we destroy these walls that stand between us and the wonders God promises us? How can our wall come crashing down, revealing the paradise that exists on the other side?
After crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land, the largest obstacle standing between the Israelites and their beautiful land was the walled city of Jericho. The walls of Jericho needed to be destroyed along with the city itself in order for the Israelites to fully receive the bounty of God’s promises. Now, they could have tried to breach the city walls conventionally by the use of siege machines, ladders, and fire. But they didn’t. Instead God commanded them to march around the city once with all the armed men for six days. Then, on the seventh day, they were instructed to march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When they heard the priests blow a long blast on the trumpets, the whole army was to give a loud shout, and then the wall of the city would collapse. The Israelites did exactly as instructed, and when the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city (Joshua 6).
There are ways to attack my walls conventionally and they’ve proven to be effective. I could seek counseling for the communication problems I possess, I could continue to hop online in order to find a date for next weekend and not be lonely for a couple hours, I could put forth more effort into my relationships in order to connect better with the people I love—and I probably should. My mom could agree to all the treatments recommended by her doctors, undergo chemo therapy, and seek the best medical care available—and she probably should. The Israelites still ran into Jericho and took the city through conventional methods (sword, spear, and dagger). On the other hand, they relied on unconventional methods first…they trusted in God to tear down the wall before them, to breach that which stood in their way, and overcome their major obstacles. Faith in a powerful God is what overcame the walls of Jericho…not their own strengths, tactics, and methodologies. Faith in a powerful God is what will first and foremost tear down the walls that stand between me and the promises of love, companionship, purpose, communication, and joy. Faith in a powerful God is what will first and foremost annihilate the wall of cancer that stands between my mom and recovery. God promises us that, by faith, he will utterly destroy these walls that prevent us from experiencing freedom, and he also promises to provide us with the strength we need to march over the rubble and take the city because “[we] can do all this through him who gives [us] strength” (Philippians 4:13).