You’ve met those Christians that have lots of walls up…protective barriers…right? Why can’t we all just have the faith to be vulnerable? Granted, every person has been called upon in life to defend themselves from emotional or spiritual injury, and rightly so. Remaining passive in the midst of emotional or theological pain does not present itself as a wise option. But those protective barriers that keep out the bad, may also keep out the good. When we spiritually self-protect, is it because we do not feel safe with God? Or, have I developed a spiritual skill set that consistently runs toward God and not away from Him? See Prov. 18:10.
Disappointments in life are painful and I need to cushion myself against future ones. God’s representatives (spiritual leaders over me) may have proven to be unsafe by abusing power and hiding who they really are. 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.
Truth be told, no one has a bulletproof script for life, with zero exposure to pain, suffering, and bewilderment.
Restoring the Soul
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. But they try their best. Self-protection is armor for the soul and especially relevant in those early, developmental years of childhood. It’s imperative 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 we may not be left with much choice.
Protective Barriers: Creating a Vacancy
Having been hurt and offended by people over the years, my personal tendency has been to meter out my exposure, thus ensuring my safety. For example, getting lost in a novel or immersed in my favorite television family, is a non-threatening place, allowing me to remain completely in control while enjoying the interaction of the characters in the story. I would not say that this qualifies as true “fellowship”, but millions of lonely people have opted for this substitute.
God can be trusted fully, and He longs to facilitate a greater influx of His Presence, especially in areas where carefully constructed barriers exist. 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. Here are three words that represent this.
John 10:10 talks about abundant life as one that is thriving in love. The Great Commandment to which we must devote our allegiance is to “love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.” This requires the contribution of trust on our part and a recognition that in every age of human history, the spirit of sonship and the orphan spirit have been in conflict.
The one is an internal deposit of the spirit of adoption, by which we become joint-heirs with Christ. The other struggles with no sense of belonging or destiny, ever seeking a place to call home for the heart.
“A father to the fatherless…God sets the lonely in families.” (Ps. 68:5-6) Here again, the risk is palpable; dare I trust anyone again? Protective barriers can definitely seem to be a safer option on the front end and we certainly need to be discerning. One principle I’ve experienced numerous times: Aborted input from people will diminish my resources, as well as robbing them of being blessed by what I have to offer. Risking wholeheartedness leads to abundance; playing it safe leads to diminishment.
A closed heart is an isolated heart, with the danger of an independent, self-reliant attitude. The potential for meaningful relationships will be hard-pressed to find any depth of soil in which to grow. In this scenario, we are controlling relationships to compensate for our fear of intimacy. The outcome: we are doing to people what we fear they will do to us – rejection. Instead of being rooted and grounded, we are left “field-less”, with no room for a new planting (see Eph. 3:17-19).
I am better able to run the race when I have an enlarged heart, a growing resource of who I am in Christ. Here is a prayer I’ve often prayed: “Lord fill my heart and mind with all that is of You, and empty me of all that is not You.” Very broad I know, but when the Holy Spirit delivers the answers, He provides very specific targets for growth and maturity in my life (see Ps. 119:32).
Protective barriers can produce a restricted atmosphere. It leads me to say, “There is pain from my past, but I have it quarantined and I intend to keep it in its place.” In reality, unhealed pain from the past is really “present” pain, which seldom travels in straight lines, but tends to circle around behind us as a saboteur of sorts. Rather than being enlarged, my life remains tethered to reduced resources. God’s desire is for the “real me” to blossom and grow!
God’s Protection – Armor of Light
Seldom seamless, relinquishing unhealthy protective barriers involves the acquisition of new skills, and patience to endure the bumps in the road. None of us can perfectly be 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. And we are not left without armor. Here’s the best I’ve found: “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. It’s an ongoing journey; one of abundance, fullness, and enlargement. 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 ( see 1 Pet. 2:23,25).
NOTE: Interested in a deeper study on the armor of God to overcome toxic protective barriers? Watch FREE sessions in my course – The Victorious Marriage
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