Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest things for us adults, aren’t they?
I’ve found the older I get, the more complicated those things become. Shouldn’t it be opposite? Shouldn’t growing up and maturing mean getting better at this whole life thing?
But when I think about someone who is able to do all of those things well – trust, forgive, let go, accept, believe, relax…the first picture that comes to mind is that of a child.
To be more specific, I think of the kid that was a part of the family next to me at the public pool last summer (side-note: the public pool is a miserable experience past the age of 13). This little boy, probably six, embodied many of these words within just a few minutes.
It all started when he and his little brother, maybe four years old, were taking turns jumping off the side of the pool into their dad’s arms. And by “taking turns” I mean the younger brother kept taking his turn and cutting off Johny (yes, I just named the older one Johny because, well, that’s just a classic kid name and it felt right).
It was pretty apparent neither of them could swim well but they had trust that their dad would catch them. When the little one kept cutting Johny off, he would scream in anger, but as soon as he got the chance to jump the screaming turned to joy. As soon as he hit the water, he immediately grabbed his little brother’s hand and helped him get back up to the concrete.
He forgave and let go within the matter of seconds.
Before long, other kids at the pool caught on to the fun the boys were having and they began joining in. A line quickly formed of youngsters anxious to take the plunge into the same area where Johny’s dad nervously stood. Talk about an awkward position for Johny’s dad- he could either catch the unknown child jumping into his arms and possibly get arrested or move out of the way and risk a non-swimmer drowning. He did a dance somewhere in the middle, with one arm offered for a floatation device if needed.
I should mention I observed this all so well because I was laying next to this particular area trying to relax in the sun when the splashes began hitting me. Like I said, public pools are Hades.
Okay, I think I’m getting off track. What was the point of this story?
OH- yes, Johny. He trusted his dad, he forgave his brother, he let go of his anger, he accepted strangers as they joined in with his family. Johny is just a champ.
Kids are champs. They live with their heart wide open- it’s just natural for them.
But what about us?
How open are our hearts?
How easy is it for you forgive that person at work who talks behind your back?
Or let go of bitterness you’ve held towards that family member for years?
Or to relax every now and then and trust that the world won’t fall apart if you aren’t attempting to control something?
I’ll be honest – the more I look inwardly, the more I realize that as years have gone on, I’ve built walls around what used to be a wide-open heart.
For me, “walls” look like this:
- Avoiding certain people so they don’t hurt me again.
- Staying quiet in Bible study so no one judges what is going on in my heart.
- Being goofy with a group of friends to avoid being real.
- Staying preoccupied with my phone to ensure I’m the ignorer, not the one being ignored.
- Using harsh words with my husband so I’m the one doing the hurting and not getting hurt.
- Behaving a certain way around certain people to make sure they approve of me.
- Drowning myself in Facebook so I can think about someone else’s life other than my own.
- Working non-stop so everything is “under control” and I don’t have to trust God’s control.
Do you have any similar walls?
A friend of mine made the decision to accept Christ into her life last week. When she explained what her “aha” moment was that finally made her ready to give her life to Him, she said it was when her husband pointed out Matthew 18:3-
“And [Jesus] said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
As I prayed this morning, I remembered that children don’t have the walls we build over the years to protect ourselves. And that is exactly what the Lord desires for us. To have childlike faith.
To believe His Word. Trust that He is control. Trust that we are secure in Him and we don’t need to find security elsewhere. To accept others into our life that are different. To forgive those who hurt us. To relax every now and then and know He holds the world together, not us.
To live with a wide-open heart.
But how do we do this when we live in a mean world? When opening our heart feels like we are exposing it to a million arrows? And how do we keep it open when it’s wounded?
Here’s the secret:
We don’t decide to open our hearts and keep it open even after someone hurts it.
It’s not possible even.
But those of us who are Christ-followers can live with an open heart because it’s Christ in us who gives us that ability.
When we accept Christ, we are given His Spirit to dwell inside of us. And it’s His Spirit that protects our heart – even when it is wide open!
The secret to trusting isn’t learning to trust others – it’s learning to trust the Spirit within us.
When my walls go up, I’m attempting to protect a heart that is already sealed and protected in the most secure, eternal way possible. I’m learning that sin – displeasing God – is usually just a result of me building my own walls. The problem is when I build walls to block my heart, I’m blocking the Spirit’s work through my heart. I can’t accept how the Lord is loving me through others and I can’t give love the Lord is giving me to others – my walls are in the way. My sin is in the way.
Friend, what walls have you built around your heart? We all have them. They probably began being built years and years ago to protect yourself against a very real threat. But here’s the good news:
We already have an ultimate protector.
And he wants to help us tear our walls down.
Walls are built naturally in an evil world, but they are removed very unnaturally.
It takes an unnatural God. And He is available.
Would you join me in asking Him to help you remove your walls?
Here are five steps that I’ve found along the way that have helped me begin to tear down my walls, brick by brick. I’ve included one of my “walls” as an example of how the process works.
1. Ask God to help you identify your walls.
- As I got more involved in my women’s Bible study I realized that I was very hesitant to share anything personal and felt very uncomfortable the entire time I was there. After talking to a friend about it and sitting with the Lord I identified that I was afraid the women in the group would judge me.
2. Think about why each wall may be there. This could be a long, painful process that takes you years and years back in time, but it is so necessary to go backwards before you go forwards.
- After a lot of reflection, I realized this stemmed from an experience in college when I was going through a hard time and I heard a few of my closest friends talking about me when they didn’t know I was there. They were very clearly judging me as I struggled through a hard family situation and talked about how to “snap me out of it”. What I was longing for in the situation was a big hug and a friend to help me face it. I built a wall that day that stopped letting people into my struggles.
3. After finding the root of your wall, ask God to teach you His truth that counteracts the lie that told you to build it.
- The lie I began believing after that day was that I shouldn’t struggle and I can’t trust anyone to love me when I am. But God’s word says that He sympathizes with me in my weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He isn’t mad when I am struggling. His word also talks over and over about what the church is – that we are supposed to carry one another’s burdens and get help when we are in need (Galatians 6:2, Philippians 2:4).
4. Repeat that truth as often as it takes and continue to ask God to write His truth on your heart.
- I continued to read scripture and tell myself the truth that I’m allowed to struggle, God sympathizes with me, and I can and should allow the church to be the church and love me through my struggles.
5. Ask the Spirit to allow you to live with a wide-open heart, by His power.
- I continuously am asking the Lord to help me live with a wide-open heart when I am with friends. It’s a work in progress but I can gladly say He is helping me tear down a brick at a time.
I’ve had much thicker and deeper walls than the one above, but wanted to give a quick picture of the process – I hope you know that no wall is too thick or too deep for our Father.
When we realize how protected we are we never want to close our hearts off again. Life is fully lived when we aren’t afraid of the arrows.
Friend, how can you take down a brick today?