Vulnerable or Guarded?
I once heard the question posed: When we spiritually self-protect, is it because we do not feel safe with God? You’ve met those Christians that have lots of walls up, right? Truth be told, every one of us has been called upon in life to defend ourselves from emotional and spiritual injury. Walls are not optional, but necessary, in order to survive. They serve as boundaries. But those protective barriers that keep out the bad, over time, may also keep out the good. Why can’t we all just have the faith to be vulnerable, especially with God who loves us so extravagantly?
We all experience painful disappointments in life and we are prone to put safeguards in place to cushion ourselves against future hardship. Requests I have fervently prayed about, remain unanswered. People around me have sown the same seed I have; they seem to have prospered, while my expectations and dreams have yet to materialize. Even God’s representatives (spiritual leaders over me) may have proven to be unsafe by abusing power and hiding who they really are.
No one has a bulletproof script for life, with zero exposure to pain, suffering, and bewilderment. So do I feel safe with God? Have I developed a spiritual skill set that consistently runs toward God and not away from Him? Prov. 18:10
If anyone deserves to have a safe place in God, it is the innocent child. As a pastor, I have heard many heart rending stories, from adults seeking to “unpack” childhood trauma. Children do not have the cognitive skill to parcel out their hurtful experiences into neatly insulated storage places. By whatever means available, self-protection must be established in order to maintain a semblance of order. It’s imperative, and especially relevant in those early, developmental years of childhood, to create as safe a place as possible in the soul, to process pain and wounding.
In extreme situations, there may even be the need for disassociation – the act of separating or disconnecting mental processes, in order to survive. While it’s true that self-protection quickly morphs into a “self-barricade”, severe dysfunction forces the issue of survival and one may not be left with much choice. Bringing order from such chaos is often a lifelong journey.
Creating a Vacancy
I know that God desires to facilitate a greater influx of His Presence, especially in areas of my heart where carefully constructed barriers are in place. Here it gets a bit dicey, to deconstruct my familiar safe places, and trust God to provide a new place of protection. Being finite, requires that we surrender over occupied places, empty them out so to speak, to create a “vacancy” for the new blessings that our loving God desires to impart.
Relinquishing self-protection involves the acquisition of new skills, and patience to endure the bumps in the road. None of us can be perfectly like Christ in all of our relationships. We will let people down and need to ask their forgiveness. Others will let us down and then it’s our turn to forgive. It’s critical that we fellowship in a healing community. May God grant us discernment to find the right family to match the season we are in. Thankfully, we are not left without protective armor. “Put on the armor of light…clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 13:12,14
Christ Himself is our abiding armor.
I’ve made the transition from self-protection to God-protection, many times. Just as Jesus entrusted Himself to God, let us keep the invitation open, giving complete soul-access to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. 1 Pet. 2:23,25 It’s truly the only safe place to be.