Tear Down The Wall
It has been over 30 years since the Wall was torn down. I have been remembering so much about how my generation was impacted by The Berlin Wall, especially as I take action trying to prevent the building of a structure that would become another barrier, capitalized and referred to by more generations as The Wall – another barrier that is divisive and destructive. Another structure that will eventually need to be torn down. We will tear it down when we learn, again, that anytime we try to shut ourselves off from connecting with each other, growing in complexity and embracing diversity, we are poorer in all ways.
My father was instrumental in efforts that helped tear down the Berlin Wall. It was powerful and moving to be a part of these efforts to support non-violent actions which eventually led to that day where people on both sides of the Wall were helping each other tear it down.
No guns, no tanks, no coup.
It was a moment when enough people realized that the cost of keeping the Wall was too high, and the benefit of tearing it down was priceless.
It took the efforts of countless people to make that happen, and to create a new world which was not divided by the Berlin Wall.
I have become aware of many ways we build or are hurt by walls, both literal and figurative.
I have been able to meet, listen to and come to love many LGBTQ people in my life. These beloved friends have been so generous in sharing their journeys with me. They have taught me so much about what it takes to tear down walls.
I thought of walls coming down when I was with a dear transgender friend as she recently let me mourn with her during a painful time. She shared how overwhelming her despair is when someone tells her she is denying who she is supposed to be, and how so many are unwilling to see that her journey to affirm her gender really is the only way she can continue to breathe. I told her how grateful I am that she is living as the person she knows herself to be. She said she could never again confine herself to being who others told her she needed to be. Trying to exist behind the walls of conforming to these restrictions was suffocating the life out of her. The cost was too high, and she tore that wall down. Now she is creating a life beyond that wall. Her courage and power inspire me.
Not once did she suggest it was up to someone else to create that world for her. She is owning her journey completely, even as she shares it and lets others help her along the way. She is not waiting for someone else to give her permission to continue stepping forward, transforming the world not only for herself, but also for all of us. Any wall torn down gives us a more connected world.
I thought of walls coming down as I listened to the congressional hearings this week. I saw amazing women pull down any walls of privacy or relative anonymity that might have protected them from threats and lies. They powerfully shared their experiences and ideas about what is happening that is damaging, pulling down walls of secrecy that might protect destructive efforts.
I think of walls coming down each time I hear someone speak up in church, or a family gathering, or at school, or work. When they step out from behind a wall of silence, or agreement to not cause any disturbance. Or when they suggest that there might be a different view, a different story to consider.
I think of walls coming down when I again read this quote from Chieko Okazaki…
“How much courage does it take in a Relief Society class to raise your hand when everyone seems to agree on only one point of view but where it seems to contradict the Savior’s law of love? Who will represent the point of view of people like you if you do not? Who will speak for your children if you do not? Who will speak for kindness and justice and mercy? If the Spirit whispers that there are people who need to hear your voice, then try to find a way to speak—not to criticize or to force a different decision but to share your perspective. The Church needs to hear the voices of all its members—the voices of its women, its people of color, its new converts, its handicapped members, its divorced members, its teenagers and children, its mothers with small children, its priesthood leaders trying to help. It needs to hear from people who struggle with mental illness, with same-sex attraction, with poverty, and with sorrow.”
From the book “A Friend in Jesus” by Chieko Okazaki.
I think of tearing down walls when I hear friends say they long to be a part of their ward or family or social community, but they don’t want to deal with any rhetoric about politics, or truth claims, or exclusion, or disagreement. I know it is hard to see the wall there – the wall I can build so quickly that separates me from anyone who I assume will not agree with me, or be at the same place I am with understanding how things need to be. It can keep me in a place of isolation, judgement, and powerlessness as I wait for evidence of agreement before I interact with any community.
I ask you to look for the walls in your life. Are they ones you have built to protect yourself from your fear of what others might think of you if you speak up? Are they ones you feel have been imposed on you by what others claim to be true? Is there a way to tear down the walls without resorting to violence? Without attacking or tearing someone else down? Is there a way to tear down the walls by speaking up and creating a world that can exist without that wall. Can you live a life that affirms a world without the need for walls of confinement, or walls that are built in the name of protection?
It is so difficult. It takes so much effort, over and over and over, to invite people on all sides of any wall to come and help tear it down because we all need a world with less division and more connection.
I think Christ was an example of someone who did not wait for all sides to come and agree to pull down the walls. He created a world with his language and actions that had no walls. And He invited us to do the same. It was not easy, or pleasant, or predictable. It is an example of constantly, moment by moment, being willing to leave behind a past life of confinement, defensiveness, and limits, and to create and step into a new world of connection and unconditional love.
I try and fail at this, over and over. And I will keep trying. Because a world of walls is a world without connection.
Please join me, and see what new worlds we can create.