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The Great Wall Today

The great wall today is not made up of stones stacked by anonymous serfs across miles and miles of mountain ridges at the futile whim of a xenophobic emperor.

The great wall today is not visible from outer space.

The great wall today is human, made up of men and women and boys and girls with almond shaped eyes and black hair, Asian in appearance and essence.

The great wall today is visible only from inner space.

What nameless serfs make up the great wall today?

Taxi drivers with belly laughs who can’t read maps and who expect me to tell them how to get where I have never been and who don't understand my frustrated English.

What modern serfs make up the wall today?

Faceless women selling newspapers on the street with no hope of a sale; futile men offering wall-sized world maps on the side of the road, apparently because someone told them automobile drivers need maps. Their painful naivete calls for us to weep. And migrant workers living in hovels while they build beautiful villas for the wealthy.

On the backside of the great wall today, on the old Silk Road, there are other modern day serfs--Uzbeks, Kerjiks, Terjiks, Weeghers, Kazakhs, not Chinese at all, but Muslims turned toward Mecca and away from Beijing.

Who are the emperors of the great wall today?

First, the hopeful ones, young professionals who gather at Starbucks drinking lattes, cappuccinos, and Americanos, discussing their days and planning their futures.

Then the achieving ones. mid-career managers who stay at the Grand Kempenski or the Portman Ritz Carlton. meeting at the bar, drinking chardormay and delighting in their career progress.

And finally the successful ones, established leaders living in brand new penthouses or century old mansions, driving BMWs and reveling in luxury greater than any ancient emperor ever knew.

Business behind the great wall today is done as it always has been, according to the law of the land; not the rule of law, but the rule of relationships, guanxi they call it. Contracts are signed and sealed with handshakes and become relationally binding--as long as the handshake includes a promissory note for a thousand or two or even a million or more.

Today's emperors are just as insecure as yesterday's, marked by inferiority and aggressiveness, by fear and assertiveness, by deception and cleverness, by control and secretiveness. And they are just as mystified by us as we are by them.

How will we get through the great wall of today?

By taking up hammer and chisel, drill and saw and forcing a break through? By wheeling and dealing and finagling our way through? This will not work. Today's great wall is a living wall, and living flesh will fill any opening we force or finagle before we finish our effort.

Maybe we can try an end run to get around the great wall before they figure out what we're doing. We can't. The wall never ends. We can run and run and run, but we only run in circles around the unending wall.

Perhaps we can tunnel under it. How can we? The great wall today is as deep Asian soul.

Then let's climb over it. No! No! No! The great wall today is as high as the eastern sun.

So what can we do?

One thing.

What?

Wait.

Wait? For what?

An invitation. An invitation to come through the great wall of today and enter the lives of those who make it up.

If we step back and wait and watch, we'll make an amazing discovery. Today's great wall is full of windows and doors that can never he seen by those who try to force their way through. It holds opportune openings for all who wait and watch- and learn to see. What kind of windows and doors will we see if we wait? The windows and doors of hurt and need; the windows and doors of fear, guilt, and shame; the windows and doors of the human heart.

What do we do while we're waiting? We do deeds of love and compassion, acts from our hearts to their hearts, acts that find Narnia-like openings in the great wall of today.

And as this happens, gradually, slowly, imperceptibly, the great wall of today will once again be turned to stone, .living stones of the living church, stretching across a ceaseless horizon of human souls.

But there are other great walls before which we stand: a rebellious child, a rejecting mate, an angry parent, even our own prodigal nation. They, too, like the great wall today, respond only to love. Love alone opens the windows and unlocks the doors of all great walls in any day.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What great walls do you face.? A teenager's rebellion.? A parent's aging? A bosses' rage and bullying?
  • What have you tried to do to break through the great wall you face? Has it worked.? Why not try waiting, waiting for an opportunity to love, to meet a need or offer some help or be there in a difficult time.?
  • Next time you stand in front of that great wall try listening. Listen for the hurt or the confusion or the clue that will lead to an opening in that wall. Listening, you know, is one of the greatest acts of love there is. Think about it.

Related Topics: Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership