Mary DeMuth’s latest book, The Wall Around Your Heart, is about the walls we build to protect ourselves from relational hurts, especially from friendly fire. We can all say been there, done that!

In the end though, the walls meant to help lose their effectiveness and do more harm than good.

The use of the word “wall” got me thinking about another famous wall.

My first trip to China was in 1992. It was summer time and it was so hot I sweated in places I didn’t even knew I had. There is a saying in China that you’re not a real man or woman until you’ve stood on The Great Wall. One of the highlights of that summer was that I could claim to be a real woman. I got to stand on The Great Wall of China.

Over the years, I have fallen in love with The Great Wall. I lived in Beijing about ten years and part of my job involved orienting people to life in China. It never grew old to take people to The Great Wall. NEVER.

The Great Wall picture

But here a few interesting facts I didn’t know about China’s great wall that help us understand our own walls.

1. You cannot see it from the moon. It’s great and all, but not that great. The same goes for our walls, they are great and need to be addressed, but they are not so great that God’s love and healing power isn’t greater.

2. This one is a game changer. There is not ONE wall. What we know as “The Great Wall” is a series of defensive structures built along China’s northern borders over a period from 200’s BC until the 1400’s. I know! And chances are, if you’ve got a wall around your heart, it probably isn’t one continuous wall. More likely, the wall around your heart started off with one incident, but it has been reinforced and added to along the way.

3. Let’s also not jump too quickly over the phrase “defensive structures.” What we now see as one of the great accomplishments of the Chinese, was actually built as an act of self-preservation. It was built to keep out northern “barbarian” tribes who kept coming down from the grasslands to raid Chinese farms and cities. Our walls are also defensive, and most likely in response to barbarians who are raiding your farms and cities. You were living your life, and someone else came to you, caused you pain, and your wall, at the time, was your best response.

4. The Great Wall is about 5,500 miles long but nowadays, most of it is in ruins. The thing about walls is they have to be maintained or they will disintegrate. For walls to remain effective, they must be cared for. How much time and effort do you expend caring for your walls? Are you tired?

5. As to effectiveness, The Great Wall may have been effective in specific eras (perhaps for decades or centuries at a time), but overall, not so much. The Mongols still came down and built the Yuan Dynasty and the Manchurians got in to build the Qing Dynasty. And truth be told about your wall’s effectiveness – it will be effective in seasons and certain situations, but in the end, it will fail you.

Unfortunately, too many of us have taken the Chinese saying about being a real man or woman and put our own twist on it. Saying that standing on the walls around are hearts is the way to be a real man or woman when it comes to protecting ourselves from hurt. Jesus reminds us through The Wall Around Your Heart that he has come not to build walls, but to break them down so that we can be set free.

This is the kind of book you can read alone or in a group and reap the benefits.

If you’ve been hurt and built a wall to protect yourself, I get it. Heck, there are 1.3 billion people in China who get it! Mary gets it too. She’ll walk you through the Lord’s prayer and you will see walls you haven’t known how to breach, come down.


If you’re wondering where you heard Mary’s name before, she’s the author of Not Marked — helping survivors of sexual abuse (and their friends). A version of this post first appeared in 31 Days of Open Hearted Living . P.S. The walls in she references in her book got started when she and her family were serving overseas. Anyone relate?


You don’t have to share your walls :) … but does this topic resonate with you?



Leave A Comment

  1. Mike November 18, 2013 at 7:04 am - Reply

    Yes, it definitely resonates with me! There’s nothing like a radically life-changing experience to open up your heart and allow the Father to begin dismantling walls, some of which maybe you didn’t even know existed!

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      Amy November 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      “Radically life-changing experience” — overall, I’m happy that the Father never wearies working on us, but in the midst, it’s not for the faint of heart! Praying for you Mike!

  2. Paula Phillips November 18, 2013 at 7:17 am - Reply

    As a lifelong builder of walls, this really spoke to me. Unfortunately, I often am not aware that my walls inflict pain regardless of which side of the wall one is standing! I find that the task of dismantling a wall is a lot more work than the act of building the wall. Fortunately, God is patient and forgiving, and always ready to help when I finally let go of the need to have a wall. I am also grateful for the forgiveness of friends who have been hurt by my walls and who then lend a hand in dismantling the walls with me, one stone at a time.

    Thanks, Amy!

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      Amy November 19, 2013 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      Dismantling taking more work than building them! TRUTH. And that our walls don’t just effect us. Loved hearing from you, Paula.

  3. Gayle November 18, 2013 at 9:50 am - Reply

    One of the few benefits of aging is not having the energy to keep up the old walls or build new ones. But I’m going to take some time and examine my heart for those that are still so strong, I forget they exist.

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      Amy November 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      YES on some of the benefits of age. And taking time to evaluate our own hearts — thanks for pointing that out!

  4. Mark Allman November 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Walls…. we all build them and I do not think we are very good at building. Most of the time we think we are protecting against one kind of attack and something else pops up and hurts us so we reinforce the wall again to protect against that threat. It is a never ending circle that never provides what we really want. Instead of walls we need to build roads. Roads that will take us from our hurt to a place where we can deal with issues realistically and put it on the road behind us. We all get hurt and the desire is to retreat behind a wall when what our heart really needs is to be freed of all walls and to learn to deal with the pain up front and promptly. It is damn tough work but the benefits are great. I wish I did it more.

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      Amy November 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      Mark, I am impressed with the ways that you consistently examine yourself and make gestures towards people.

  5. Ray November 18, 2013 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    I regret the walls I have caused others to build . I know that He forgives but as a mere mortal that pure love is hard to fathom at times ! Do I even deserve to be released from my short comings ? It would be ideal if as my walls came down so do the others I created but were all individuals and time moves differently for each or us. I guess I’ll continue cleaning my house and reap the benefits that brings. Love your post !

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      Amy November 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ray! Welcome back anytime :)

  6. Shelly November 19, 2013 at 7:28 am - Reply

    Resonate? Yes!!! I loved reading about the walls through the lens of our beloved Great Wall. :-) I know there are walls, layers of walls, and letting them come down is hard because I am left naked and vulnerable. Without safe people around, it is hard to do that. And sometimes I feel like I want to take a sledge hammer to them and just be done with the whole lot! But I don’t think that is the way it will be for most of my walls. I might even find that when the Light of the Gospel shines on the walls there are openings I couldn’t see before that I can walk through, leaving those walls behind.

    I was watching workmen build a new wall along the street to my university today, one brick upon another. So your thought have me asking: Can the bricks in my walls, once dismantled, be reassembled to bring health and wholeness instead of dis-ease and wounds? If I believe that He redeems all things, then yes–Oh Yes!–He will make good out of the rubble of my dismantled walls.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

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      Amy November 19, 2013 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      Ah the sledge hammer approach!!! It’s tempting, isn’t it. But I think you’re right, more often than not, God slowly takes apart our walls and I like the idea of reassembling them into something healthy.

  7. Uncaged Words of the Week November 24, 2013 at 6:47 am - Reply

    […] The Messy Middle – I love what Amy shares about the Great Wall of China and how our hearts don’t need to be fortresses like that. Amy is an excellent writer and thinker, and I think you should subscribe to her blog. […]

  8. Landon Townsend December 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    The Great Wall of China was developed by the Ming dynasty as a deterrent against northern settlements of Mongol tribes; the Ming kings deployed almost a million soldiers along the length of the Wall to protect the Empire from the Mongols. Before them, the warring states in China (Qin, Qi, Chu, Han etc.) had built fragmented sections as safeguards against each other. It provided useful sites for lookout posts and created an elevated military route through the harsh, rugged terrain. It also safeguarded trade routes, such as the Silk Road, from aggressive tribes in the north. However, the disjointed, pre-Ming sections of the Wall couldn’t protect China from Genghis Khan, who simply went around the walls and conquered China. China was among the very first conquests of the all-conquering Mongols, and was ruled by the Central Asian tribesmen (the Yuan dynasty) for several years. Later, the Mongols were defeated by the Ming dynasty, who then added crucial sections and watch towers to the Wall. The Wall was last used in military engagement during the 1938 Sino-Japanese War.

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