OF WALLS AND BRIDGES

My husband and I chose to build our dream house in a place distant from the hassles of the city. Number one on our list of requirements was privacy. The village where we live offers just that, the greenery and fresh air are extras that we are equally grateful to enjoy. Once you go past the main entrance of the village, the buzz and hullabaloos from the thoroughfares and even from work are drowned by the hushed ambiance that seems to hover over the place. It is as if a huge, invisible machine is placed at the village’s entrance that automatically senses and filters any disquiet that may have been hanging over one’s shoulders all day. Quite obviously, the one thing that residents in our village have in common is our penchant for privacy. The height of the fences, gates and walls that each one of us built around our houses, though fancifully designed, say it all.

Walls are structures that assert ownership and privacy. They are made of sturdy materials to withstand weather and discourage unwanted creatures, including humans, from entering the premises. Walls define territories. They mark boundaries. In the olden days, walls were built to deter invasions, to keep outsiders outside and to protect the people inside the territory. The world has seen a number of them built across the globe over the centuries. Some of them, famous or infamous, are the Great Wall of China that was built in the early 200 B.C., the Wall of Jerusalem that has now become a pilgrimage site, the Wall of Babylon in Iraq, and the list goes on. These walls had served their purpose. Today however, they are nothing but relics, a historical marker and silent witnesses to how humanity had sought to divide themselves and the earth beneath them.

In 1989, another infamous wall saw its downfall. Seventeen years after it was built in 1961, the Berlin Wall was torn to the ground. The structure that had separated Germany – the East from the West or vice versa – was no more. I was working as a news editor when the whole world gaped as it witnessed the destruction of what could be the last reminder of Nazi occupation of Europe. The euphoria that swept around the globe was unbelievable! Who would have thought the reunification of the two Germanys would take place that very year. The atrocities of World War II are but painful memories for those who are still alive to tell the story.

The author at the foot of the San Juanico Bridge

The author at the foot of the San Juanico Bridge

Not so with bridges. Bridges, in general, are made of even tougher materials, but unlike walls their purpose is to connect. They keep people closer to one another, blurring the distance that would otherwise make ties impossible or difficult. That is why we have the idiomatic expression “to bridge the gap” which the Oxford dictionary defines as “to reduce or get rid of the differences that exists between two things or groups of people.” Again, like walls, the world has also seen so many bridges built across time and generations. Some of these famous bridges are: The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in the U.S. which was completed in 1937; the Rialto Bridge of Venice built in 1591; the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia that was constructed in 1932; and of course, I should mention our very own San Juanico Bridge that connects the islands of Samar and Tacloban in the Visayas, without which many of the aids, donations and good Samaritans would not have reached the people in Tacloban immediately after the storm Yolanda heavily hit the Visayas.

Sadly though, walls seem to be easier to build than bridges. Today the walls that we see dividing properties and territories are not the only ones we build. We also build them around us individually. These are walls invisible to the naked eye but their impact on our lives and those of the people around us can be disastrous . Individualism and apathy are no different from the fences and the gates that we put around our houses. We always carry this invisible wall with us wherever we go. We mark our own personal territories, and we are quite defensive of them, lashing against those who pose a threat to it. In this generation, the value that we put on individualism is so glaring that we almost believe we can be an “island to ourselves,” so to speak.

But this should not be for us who have known the love and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. We no longer live for ourselves, as our Lord has shown. When we entered into a relationship with Christ, we entered into a relationship with the rest of our fellow believers, our brothers and sisters, His Body, the Church. Individual walls dissipate into thin air as we learn to offer ourselves to the service of our sisters and brothers, no matter what their color, economic status in society or their educational background. We embrace each one equally because of the love that God is giving to us, allowing us to experience what it means to truly care for others. Our conversion demolishes the walls that we once built around ourselves.

Being in Christ gives us the desire and the wisdom to build “spiritual bridges” so each one of us gets connected to the other members of the Body, continue to grow in unity, and learn to love unconditionally. May God allow us the wisdom and courage to deconstruct our doctrines, denominations and traditions and see if these are, in reality, but walls that perpetuate the mindset that we had before we came to Christ which leads to division in the Church.

Being in Christ means building bridges and tearing down walls.

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