Ever heard the term, “hitting your brick wall”? Sure…we’ve all probably heard that before or perhaps in a simpler form of just “hitting the wall”. I checked the Internet to find the origin of the phrase and nothing striking came to fruition. But I think we all know what it means to “hit our wall” in the figurative sense.
What about in the literal sense? I remember being 6-years old and my dad teaching me how to ride a bike. Dad was a career Army officer and it’s no surprise to many of you that my Dad had a very straightforward way of teaching me, his eldest son, how to ride the bike without the aid of training wheels. Dad’s way was pretty much “sink or swim” or on the particular hot afternoon at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, it was “downhill all the way and you’d better remember to steer”! To a six year old, that hill behind our government quarters on the Army base seem ginormous. Years later when I had graduated from West Point and was myself an Army captain stationed at Fort Bragg, I drove by our old house to see the massive hill. I remember parking my car and walking around behind the old house and scratching my head asking “where’s the hill”? Things seem a lot different to a thirty-something year old than they did to a six year old, right? That rule probably applies to more than just this story….so maybe I’ll preach on that another day as well.
Dad grabbed the back of the banana seat and before I could squirm off the bike, away I was zooming down the hill. My tears and fears, gave way to cheers and laughter…..until, I forgot that final bit of instruction from my dad…..”Don’t forget to turn….!”
BAM….! Smack I went right into the back of our brick government ranch home. Yes….I hit the brick wall that day….literally!
Years later, I hit the wall another time…this time in a more figurative sense. I was running in my first marathon distance race and like many of my peers who were “young, dumb second lieutenants”, we blew off most of the required training. We were all in school at the Army’s Infantry Officers Basic Course or “IOBC” as it was commonly referred….and many of us were classmates from West Point. “Training……who needs training…..?” We were the Infantry branch’s best and brightest, or so we thought.
So more than a dozen of us registered for the Blue Angel Marathon at Pensacola Naval Air Station, just a little over an hour from Fort Benning, Georgia…without any regard to what would be required to get to the finish line….literally.
For me personally, it was a miserable day. The sights and scenes were beautiful during the race. I seem to even recall a flyover by the world famous Blue Angels fighter jets at some point. But then around mile 23, with just under a 5 km distance to go….my legs buckled underneath me and my head began to spin. I “hit the wall”, so to speak, and had to walk the final 2 miles to the finish line, much to the ridicule of my IOBC classmates, and detriment to my own personal pride!
Those are just a couple stories of time where I’ve hit my wall….both literally and figuratively. I’m sure you have some examples of your own as well.
What about hitting our spiritual wall? Have you ever done that before? Maybe once, twice, three times? For me, I’ve hit my spiritual wall time and time again. Do you know what I mean when I say “spiritual wall”? It’s that point in your life where you look up to our Heavenly Father and say “why me, Lord?” It’s the days when you can’t seem to do anything right and we call out to God asking “why are You punishing me?”. Or it’s the low points in our jobs, in our schools or even in our relationships, where we blame God because things won’t go according to our plan.
Yeh, I’ve had those days more than I care to admit. What about you?
Scripture is full of stories of individuals hitting their own spiritual walls. Moses is a great one. He thinks he’s on the right track, has God’s backing, and …bam….Pharaoh says “I have another plan for you, Moses”. At the end of Exodus 4, Moses returns to Egypt after fleeing as a murderer, but now a redeemed man of God. Moses has some great confidence and declares to Pharaoh in Exodus 5, “Let my people go into the wilderness to honor their God”. Pharaoh sees this as the Israelites becoming lazy slaves and makes things doubly hard on them. Nice job, Moses. Watch out….that brick wall hurts when you hit it going that fast.
And Peter, who Jesus had chosen to lead the church after He returned to heaven, is helpless to save his friend, Jesus, when he gets arrested, beaten and dragged off. When confronted, Peter denies Jesus three times. Some might argue that Peter’s denial was due to the fact that he didn’t know how to help Jesus….Have you ever banged your head against the wall, figuratively speaking, when you can’t find a solution? Maybe you’ve banged it once, twice, then three times against that wall?
Did anyone see the cock crowing on top of that brick wall?
I think the lesson for us today is that we will all have spiritual brick walls in our lives. Some of you may have them right now…and others may have unknown walls on the horizon. And for some, those walls will be minor setbacks where you’ll just need to wipe the dirt and blood off, stick on a Band-Aid, and lick your wounds….like me learning to ride a bike. Others will have bigger challenges where the walls will be more like impassible objects that God has placed as obstacles on our path.
Whether those obstacles are meant to change your direction, slow you down, or cause you to look up to see how high the wall is, give some thought that the wall is there for a reason. If you must turn…then turn. If you need to need to go backwards, well, then try that route. If you need to climb over it…by all means start upward. And if you must tear down the wall….piece by piece….then chose your bricks carefully.
Walls provide us with the ambiguity that perhaps we need in our lives.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Gilda Radner, a comedian some might remember from the early days of Saturday Night Live, who was taken by cancer much to soon. Upon facing the inevitable, Radner embraced her “wall” by saying:
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”
Here’s to the walls in our lives……