Word ArtAs I was driving home from an errand, I listened to the devotional thought of the day put out by Family Foundations. Craig was talking about the signs of a hardened heart. I listened as he described the signs and symptoms of a hardened heart, and I realized that it described so much of what I am walking through in my life….

In the past year, God has really been breaking down a wall in my heart. A wall that was put there to try to protect myself from ever being hurt again. God took me back into some of the darkest times of my life to expose a deep trust issue that has been holding me back for years. There were some circumstances that occurred when I was very young that had shattered my very basic trust in people, especially in adults and Christians. Along with that was a deep trust issue with God. Through those circumstances came a tremendous amount of shame, fear, and a fierce anger. Each incident that “confirmed” the lies in my little heart was like another brick in the wall I began to build to protect myself.

One night, God very gently peeled off the blinders as I was seeking answers for the block I kept sensing in my heart, and I saw and realized that I was afraid of being completely known and loved. This fear was holding me back from fully loving and understanding others in healthy relationships. I was afraid to be vulnerable or indebted to anyone for fear I would be used and betrayed. Although I tried to drown out that voice in my head it kept yelling that something was wrong with me that made me beyond love. In my head I knew these were lies, but in my heart it didn’t take the hurt away. Forming new friendships and relationships are exhausting when you are afraid to be loved or vulnerable. I was holding everyone at arm’s length and wait for them to prove to me they could be trusted. It was like I would reach a certain level in relationships and then suddenly be gripped with an overwhelming fear that I couldn’t understand and every fiber of my being would scream to get as far away as possible from that feeling.

You know it amazes me how God can use painful circumstances to rid our hearts of walls. I had just come out of a toxic situation that had left me feeling emotionally exhausted and wondering how I could have been so blinded and deceived. While the betrayal I experienced in that situation hurt, what hurt me more was the fact that I didn’t see it coming. I felt like I had betrayed myself by not protecting myself from being hurt, and that if I had just been more careful I wouldn’t have been hurt. All of that agreed with the lie in my head telling me there was something wrong with me. As painful as that situation was, when I invited God into the pain, His truth flooded my heart with healing.

In coming out of that situation, I realized there needs to be boundaries, yes. But when we lock ourselves away for fear of being hurt, we will miss out on all the fullness life has to offer. Toxic friendships or relationships can exhaust you, but in the end being vulnerable and real even if it hurts is still better than isolation. I also saw where I had allowed the toxicity to attack the core of my self-worth and identity. It revealed not only who my true friends really are, but also areas where I had placed value on what people were saying over what God says. I had listened to the lies the enemy was trying to plant in my mind and had turned all my confusion inward to “what is wrong with me?” instead of running to Jesus who is the source of my identity and healing.

I think many of us have these walls that we begin building early in life. We get hurt, and to avoid feeling pain we pick up a brick and place it between us and the source of pain. In time we lay it down with the mortar of self-pity, and every hurt becomes another brick in our wall. We might call it a good wall. A safe wall. But it doesn’t change the fact that we are left walled up inside and the walls around us grow taller and thicker with every hurt.

God, in His love for us, continually tries to reach our hearts, and when we reach out and receive His love it comes into that place with us. The love of God can not be contained by the walls we build. His love begins to chip away at the walls we built. We can protest and hold back for fear of being vulnerable and exposed or we can join God in the process. God is a kind father and He will nurture us along the way if we choose to allow Him to tear down the walls. He does not force us to get rid of the walls. He loves us whether we remove the wall or not. It is us who often hold Him at arms length out of fear that keeps us from fully experiencing His love. He always leaves the choice to us. He is not a dictator and He will not force us into something we don’t want.  He will stand beside us as our eyes adjust to the sunshine coming through the walls as they begin to crumble. He understands the moments when we fall in a heap and cry from utter exhaustion. He pours ointment on our blistered hands when the ax begins to dig in. He holds us close as the bricks crumble and shelters us with His wings of protection from the flying shards. He takes the pain for us, allowing those bricks to hit Him. It’s a painful process because in order to remove the lies we have to allow Him to heal the circumstances that opened the door to the lies. Yet as another wall crumbles, He tenderly holds us close whispering His promises of love and reminding us about the gardens of fruit that will grow where there once was only a cold barren land surrounded by bricks. From the dust will arise a beautiful song of praise from the river of Life that now can freely flow without being dammed up by the wall. This process is a choice. It’s not a feeling. It’s not something that just happens. It is a conscious decision to dethrone the lies of the enemy and to put Truth in its place. It is us deciding to align to truth. God does the work, but we have to give Him permission. God is a loving Father who allows us to choose.

No matter where we come from, we are not immune to pain. Life is going to be full of messy, painful experiences and relationships. We are going to hurt. What we do with the pain, however, will define us. In my life that has looked more like a process and less like an overnight change. Yes, I cry when I remember the painful things. I still battle with fear. I’m not perfect and I’m tired of pretending to be. My Father is perfect and His perfection is all I need. How would this world change if we would be okay with vulnerable, messy, and honest? I’m sure glad Jesus is okay with it. He came to this world as a vulnerable baby and was spat upon, beaten, and then killed in a horrific manner. He suffered. He cried, and then He defeated death, defeated sin, defeated the lies when He rose so that we can also live undefeated, fearless, and bold lives.

I struggle to post this because I feel it is vulnerable. It is very much a part of my current journey and isn’t really a “happy ending feeling” blog because honestly being vulnerable is more about a lifestyle than a one time experience. I’m going to post this anyway and I invite you to be vulnerable too. So far I am finding that being vulnerable can be painful because there will be people who will slap you in the face for it. Just remember that every blow in the face you get is from someone who is hurting. Raise your sword toward the enemy, pray to Jesus for healing and be kind to the person who hurt you. I know it’s hard and I’m not going to bother to pretend that I have done well at this. I have likely been found running the opposite direction when that happens. (All grammar aside for a moment because I feel like this statement needs a southern mama twist!) “Ain’t nobody been truly saved from being hit in the face with a Bible.” It’s the vulnerable, reckless, messy, and amazing love within its pages lived out in everyday shoe leather that makes the message within the pages come alive. I’ve been around vulnerable, every day shoe leather people, and I’ve been around slap your face with a Bible people, and I can assure you that the former is what made me develop a hunger and thirst for God that I didn’t know was possible, while the latter left me more hopeless and confused than ever.

Here’s to learning more about being okay with being vulnerable. This is very much a #goals post than a #achievements post in my life.

Go out there and spread you glitter!