“We need three strong volunteers,” I said to the congregation for our Sunday children’s message. Hesitantly, (I have a reputation for embarrassing folks.) three men came forward. I placed them side by side and announced: “You are to be a wall. No matter what I say or do, you must not let me through. Do you understand?” At this point they gave me suspicious looks but nodded in agreement.
So with a theatrical flourish, I waved my hand toward the three men and announced: “Children, pretend these men are a wall. I am about to walk right through that wall. Do you know why? Because I am a positive thinker and fill my mind regularly with happy thoughts. Do you believe I can do it?”
Several children grinned and nodded their heads while a few shook their heads vigorously from side to side. However, the three men had a different look: serious. They were not going to let me through. With a happy smile on my face, I confidently strode toward the wall and bounced backwards like rubber ball. The children were laughing and even the men forming the wall were starting to grin.
“What happened?” I asked. “What did I do wrong? I was thinking happy thoughts?” Several kids started shouting directions. “Hit the wall with your fist. Go under their legs.” Finally, one of the boys said, “Go way back and run to the wall as fast as you can.”
“You’re right!” I answered. “That’s exactly what I need to do! Keep thinking happy thoughts, then I step way back, run fast and crash right through that old wall. After all, with determination and a positive attitude we can do anything — right?!” The kids began shouting and laughing but the men looked grim.
While running toward the wall, I assumed everyone knew this was only a children’s lesson. I had no intention of crashing through the three men who made up that wall. At the last second, I would pretend to bounce off the wall and go on with the story. Unfortunately, one of the men didn’t get the point.
The center “wall guy” who must have played linebacker on his school football team put arms to chest in his best blocking stance and let me have it, so to speak. All I remember is the sensation of flying through the air backwards before crashing to the floor. For several long moments there was an eerie silence as four hundred people collectively held their breath, wondering if their pastor was still alive?
The story was supposed to illustrate our need for God. Determination and a positive attitude are wonderful attributes but will only take you so far. In the end, you find yourself up against a wall with nowhere to go. This was supposed to be a lesson on putting our faith in God’s willingness and ability to show us another way through, over or around any wall or obstacle, no matter how big or small.
† “Follow God’s example in everything you do because you are his dear children.” (Eph. 5:1)
† “Continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit.” Jude 2:20
† “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14:16-17
I only expected to encounter a wall, not be smashed in mid-flight. Walls don’t do that. Do they? We expect a few obstacles in our lives but it’s the full-blown tragedies that hit us by surprise and knock us to the ground. Determination and positive attitude can’t help us here: we need something more.
Could this be God’s unexpected lesson of the story? As I lay on the ground with the wind knocked out, checking to see if my body parts were still attached, I knew what needed to be done. No one wanted me hurt, especially the man who hit me. Everyone was holding their breath, praying and waiting.
I prayed for strength, slowly stood up, looked at the man who hit me, shook my head and smiled. Four hundred people erupted in laughter and applause. It was not the lesson, I intended but it may be the best lesson of all. When life knocks you down, remember God will answer your prayers and give you the strength to stand up and smile. It may not get you through a wall but it could get you through life.