Lessons from an Irish Wall


Chapel 2Anyone who has visited Ireland cannot help but be struck by the patchwork of stone walls that cover rural areas, especially in the south and west of the country. These walls are an iconic part of the Irish landscape. The first night we spent on our Irish tour was in a lodge located in a lovely lakeside setting that included a stone chapel and ruins of an ancient monastery.

Monestary wallI spent some time in the morning sitting by one of the old monastery walls and reading the Bible. Gradually, my attention was diverted from the chapter I was reading to the wall beside me. I felt like the Holy Spirit was whispering that these walls contained some important lessons, so I observed them carefully. Here are a few of the things you notice right away:

  1. The walls have nothing to hold them together! This is just totally outside my American concept of a wall. No mortar, nothing between the various stones, how can they stay up?
  2. The stones have great diversity. Some walls in Ireland may be uniform but the ones I saw consisted of all kinds of different size and shape of rock: small and large, flat and rounded all fit together in an elaborate mosaic.

After doing a little research I learned:

  1. Using mortar would actually create a less stable wall. Because Ireland has so much rainfall, the constant moisture would be absorbed by the mortar and weaken the structure.
  2. The spaces between the rocks allow the wind to blow through the wall, giving it flexibility and resilience.
  3. The stones are not placed haphazardly, but building this type of wall is a craft that required great skill from the workman to know how to fit the stones for maximum stability.

So what is the hidden message in these walls?

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. 1 Peter 2:5

DetailI suspect that that the temple wall God is building from living stones looks a little more like an Irish wall than a solid finished American wall. Is it just possible that we don’t need to add anything (mortar) to keep a church fellowship together, but we can trust the wisdom and craft of the one who places the right stones next to each other?

I had the distinct impression that many activities in church life might fall into the man-made mortar category. Not only is the mortar unnecessary, but it can make the wall less flexible and subject to damage in a storm.

Can we trust the master builder to place us and keep us properly placed solely through his sovereign wisdom?

Many aspects of Ireland touched my heart, but this is a lesson I won’t forget.


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  1. Penn Hackney

    Lovely, thank you! I love Ireland and my wife and I return to it as oftern as we are able. Your vignetrte of the stone chapel and ancient monaastery reminded me of these lnes from Spenser’s Fairie Queene, Book I, canto 1, stanza 34:
    A little lowly Hermitage it was,
    Downe in a dale, hard by a forests side,
    Far from resort of people, that did pas
    In travell to and froe: a little wyde
    There was an holy Chappell edifyde,
    Wherein the Hermite dewly wont to say
    His holy things each morne and eventyde:
    Thereby a Christall streame did gently play,
    Which from a sacred fountaine welled forth alway.

    • Helen

      That is a great verse; thank you for sharing it.


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