Humans have an incredible gift of engineering complex systems of walls, turrets and defenses. From the Great Wall of China to beautiful labyrinth gardens to the high towers of Medieval Castles, humans have shown great ingenuity and creativity in their ability to construct means of protection. What we do physically, we also do spiritually, much to our own disadvantage.
From early ages, many of us, often subconsciously and inadvertently construct complex systems of defense to protect us from the pain and disappointment of relationships. Invisible miles of walls and turrets surround and protect our deepest selves, our fears, our hopes, our gifts and places of vulnerability. Oftentimes, these systems of defense are useful for a season, as they literally help us survive. Yet, there comes a time when the systems that once saved us actually begin to harm and hinder healthy relationships.
To be sure, relationships with other human beings are risky; our deepest disappointments come from relationships. Yet, at the same time, when we wall ourselves off from relationships, we close ourselves to the opportunities for the deep love, healing and hope that can come from relationships. C.S. Lewis captures this beautifully in The Four Loves.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis
The gospel levels the playing field and provides us with safe pasture to fail, to be real and honest about where we have been wounded and where we have wounded others. Receiving ultimate and underserved forgiveness vertically from the Lord can be terribly uncomfortable, and exchanging forgiveness and grace on the horizontal level of human relationships can be equally uncomfortable. It is scary to live in such an exposed place, trusting God to be both defense and defender.
To live in such flat, open spaces can be incredibly risky and raw. It feels much safer to be walled up behind false fronts of togetherness or complex fortresses of protection. However, there is great beauty to be had in letting our walls down so that the love and grace of the Lord and other people who are instruments in His trustworthy hands can come into the real places of our lives.
As one begins to be disarmed by the gospel of grace, the Lord slowly but surely reveals and removes false fortresses, be they control, superiority, isolation, or any of their kin.
We have all heard the phrase, “talking someone down from the ledge,” but I find that our hearts most need their ledges to be talked down.
We all know the feeling, don’t we. We are walking well, enjoying freedom in relationships, when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a phrase or a look or even a fleeting fear causes the walls of our soul to spring up in defense. We revert back to natural tendencies to protect or blame or hide. In those moments, we most need the Lord to talk down the walls with the powerful truths of the gospel.
When the walls are down, on the level playing field of the gospel, God’s grace, love, and healing have space to move about freely. We will certainly wound and be wounded in this great open space of vulnerability with other broken people; however, life without ledges is worth it, for there and only there does the gospel become a practical reality rather than a mere set of beliefs.
He will bring down your high fortified walls and lay them low; he will bring them down tot he ground, to the very dust. Isaiah 25:12.
Here’s to fighting for life without ledges.