A Different Kind of Wall


Bil was a proud man (yes, he spelled his name that way). Trust me, I know because I have an excess of pride myself. I came to know him when he played the lead role in my production of A Man for All Seasons, a talky but moving play about the British saint Sir Thomas More. Bil’s audition was brilliant, but as rehearsals went on it became clear that there was a wall around his heart. And no one, not me (his director), and certainly not the God of Sir Thomas More, was allowed past that wall.

His acting pyrotechnics were undeniable. But his heart never came out to play. “I don’t cry,” he admitted just before the play opened, “but don’t worry, I know how to fake it.” His talent—and the wall—were on display nightly.

Thirty years later a mutual friend, Laurie, sent me a message that Bil had had a heart attack. “Pray,” she said. “God is using this. For the first time he’s admitting he needs someone other than himself.” But Bil managed to slip past death’s door, and reconstruction on the wall began immediately.

Then, after two more years, his lone wolf heart broke down for the final time. Laurie (and several others) visited him regularly, telling him about—and displaying—the love of the God he’d never let past that wall. Slowly, weakened by a broken dam of others’ tears, the wall began to crumble. Bil died, confessing his need for the God who’d never ceased to seek him.

Away in a Manger is probably the tenderest of all Christmas carols. Perhaps because it’s actually a nursery rhyme. It closes with the words, “Be near me lord Jesus, I ask you to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in your tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with you there.” I think of Bil when I hear those words.

father-and-son-holding-handsIt took a lifetime for God to fit him for heaven. But He finally did. God’s love is ruthless. It stops at nothing, certainly no human-made wall. But then, He’s a Father and fathers are like that. See you on the other side, Bil. As soon as the last vestiges of my wall are down, and the Father is finished…

Fitting me for heaven.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to A Different Kind of Wall

  1. I’m glad Bill came to Christ in the end, but how sad that the rest of his life was spent behind that wall! I pray daily for someone in my life that I love dearly, who also came close on a bed of pain, but got back to”business as usual” when the pain had passed. I’ve been praying for him for 45 years now. Your description of the Father’s relentless love made it dawn in me today, that maybe through all this God is answering another prayer of mine – that I could be more like Him. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Bruce says:

    Powerful and truthful post Mitch, thank you!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Candice says:

    Stories like this give me hope that those I have been praying for, will someday let that wall down. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. joyroses13 says:

    Gave me goosebumps! Thanks for sharing and the “Away in the Manger” carol has always been special to me. It is so very tender and I have appreciated it even more this past Christmas.

    Liked by 4 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      You have a tender heart, Joy. Thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

      • joyroses13 says:

        Thanks Mitch 🙂 I debated sharing the story when I first posted. The reason the song is so tender to me is that I used to sing it all the time to my children when they were young in the month of December. Sang it before they went to sleep each night. My kids are older now, and as much as I waved the wand they won’t go back to being little! I need a new wand. 🙂
        They have had very big struggles and I have worried and this past Christmas God just kept having Away in the manger play just about every time I turned on the radio or at church, etc. I felt him soothing my worries saying how they may be older but they are still his little children and he will keep them near HIM!
        Thanks once again fro the reminder! ❤

        Liked by 2 people

      • mitchteemley says:

        So glad you shared his, Joy. Blessings always.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. grAnnie Roo says:

    {sob} You got me again, Mitch! Since y’all know how, I ask you please join me in praying Phill (yep, spelled that way) give his heart back to Jesus – and keep it there.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. sandymancan says:

    People confuse strength and reverence as a strong black man dealing with the negative perception and indifferent that is still an American central theme add 28 yrs working violent gang units throughout California’s Prison system strength has always been my central theme but falling to my knees in reverence to my God has always been the central theme of my strength.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. revruss1220 says:

    Thank you for another amazing glimpse into the “heart of the matter.” Isn’t it mind-boggling to consider the strength of the grip we can have on those walls and barriers?

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Matilda S. Novak says:

    Thank you for this, Mitch.
    i’ve been praying for someone for a very long time.
    Your words are always such a blessing!
    This does my heart much good.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Such an encouragement to keep praying for loved ones who need the Lord!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Mitch, I think that you have the gift of Homage. Keep up the great posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. What a powerful and inspiringtribute/testimony, Mitch! Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Oh how I LOVE this!! “God’s love is ruthless and it never stops seeking us!”
    Glory to God. Blessings Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. bjcairns says:

    I certainly needed to read this tonight. Just not sure if everybody feels like breaking out into a fit of sobbing when they feel the Lord knock down another internal barrier for them. I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

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