building walls

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“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall?”  But without walls how will we know who’s in and who’s out?  What will tell us which group is going to heaven?  How will I explain the difference between Church of Christ and Baptist?  Where will the line sit that one must cross for salvation?

I don’t know much about sociology and psychology — but I’d definitely put my money on most people enjoying walls.  And not because their fathers told them so, or because fences make good neighbors.  I think we just enjoy delineating our stances and separating ourselves from one another.  We devote ourselves to denominations, pledge allegiance to flags, generally prefer certain genders or ethnicities, and divide our lives into categories as if there is no overlap.  Some of us don’t even like our foods to touch.

If living in Jesus doesn’t break down walls — and instead results in building more of them — I don’t think I want any part of him or his religion.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that.

My muse for the day — Robert Frost:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”



Filed under just thinking, quotes

10 responses to “building walls

  1. The book, The Shaping of Things to Come, was written by two men. One is from New Zealand and the other is from Australia. The share that in their homelands there are two different ways to keep your herds. One is to build a fence around your range. The other is to drill a well. When the cattle or sheep grow up around that well they stay close enough they can return for the water.

    We can either build and maintain the fences or live near the water of life. I prefer the later. I prefer to see all the people who stay close to Jesus as my people. While we will likely disagree on things at the fringes where walls would be built, staying focused on “the short list” reminds us that we have the same core.

    • i remember that from the book. that book, by the way, is the book (other than the bible) i deem most important in the shaping of my thoughts on missiology and ecclesiology. great book.

    • David Robinson

      I haven’t read that book, but that what was exactly what came to my mind. Hugh spoke on that a few months ago at our communion service in Denver. I’m glad you mentioned it John because I wouldn’t have known the original storyteller.

  2. This may have little to do with building walls, but I have just arrived in Geita and will be here for the next eleven days! Would love to say howdy if/ when we both have the time– email me j dot hargrave at ocmc dot org or Zain 0782 356 817 .

    • james, i’m in mwanza today, but should be back tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest. i’ll give you a call. do you know your schedule and when you’d be most able to get away from the group? where are you guys staying?

      my number is 0789 007 660 if you need anything while you’re in town.

  3. JMF


    Really great response, bro! I’ll be stealing that if you don’t object.

    One time I heard something to the effect of: “Man’s first sin was disobeying God. His second sin was the establishment of boundaries.”

    Suggesting, building fences, drawing lines, creating borders, etc. Thought it was an interesting point.

  4. I am blessed by your blog Brett

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