The walls that spoke to me last weekend were in narrow stairway in the 1930’s cottage at the home of my son Chris in an urban Atlanta neighborhood. My job was to pull down the 1960’s wallpaper. It had a small flower print in oranges and yellows. Not exactly a single guy look. The paper had been up there so long and the old paste was so dry it practically fell down in relief.
Unfortunately, on the very first piece the walls told me something I certainly didn’t care to hear. There was 1930’s wallpaper hidden under the 1960’s wallpaper! This wallpaper was even worse than the first. No telling what color it started out, but now it looked like soot with small faint blocks of early American motifs on it. It made the narrow dark stairway look like a haunted house.
Then, in the tiny hallway at the top of the stairs the walls really started talking to me when I ripped down the 1960’s wallpaper and instead of finding the 1930’s paper I found painted sheetrock. As I peeled off the paper, written words began to appear, neatly written in pencil. The more I pulled, the more words appeared. My excitement grew thinking I was about to uncover some fascinating clue into the history of the little cottage or into the lives of the long forgotten occupants. What personal words of wisdom had they hidden away here for posterity?
The words unveiled themselves in a neat column down three feet of the wall. It was a very long poem! My heart raced, hoping it was an original poem written by an unknown aspiring poet who lived in obscurity in the garret of the cottage. It was entitled “A Cat Named Sloopy.” At the very bottom it said, “Rod McKuen,” a poet who gained popularity in the ‘60s. I pulled more paper and found the opening lines of Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe, my heart sinking as I realized that I wasn’t discovering the works of an unknown poet but perhaps the graffiti-like “decorating” of a 1960’s flower child. Or maybe a few favorite poems copied onto the wall by a starry eyed college student from nearby Emory University who fancied cats and tragic love stories.
As interesting as it was to uncover the poems, as we drove home I felt an empty disappointment. I longed to know something personal about the wall writer. Who was she? I realized that knowing and being known personally is a universal longing of the human heart. There is something compelling, satisfying and healing when another lets you into a small part of their true selves, when you trust each other enough to share your innermost you. Multiply this by 100 to re-experience the joy we feel the very first time we receive what we sense in our hearts to be a personal word or sign from God that shows how He intimately knows us and cares completely. What a gift that we continue to live out this personal intimacy with God every day through prayer!
If I ever decide to write a message to future homeowners under wallpaper, maybe that’s what I’ll say. I’ll tell them my personal story of how God found me and how I found Him and how we talked every day. I imagine that the walls will really be glad to finally know what to say after being silent all those years. There are some things worth shouting from the rooftop.