On Fences, Walls, and the Kindness of Jesus
I don’t know if it’s still a thing, but when I was in high school we had Age of Empires for our family computer and I honestly can’t even come up with a ballpark figure on how many hours I wasted on that game. I was addicted. But my favorite thing was never the actual game. Instead, I loved creating my own scenarios, many of which I never even played. I spent hours making perfect, giant kingdoms, surrounded by miles of highly complicated fences and walls and bridges and moats and guard towers with soldiers and knights strategically placed throughout. Seriously intricate. Then I would make my enemy’s kingdom tiny and stunted in comparison, congratulate myself on an afternoon well spent, and wonder why I wasn’t enjoying the vibrant social life of my peers.
My life is like Age of Empires.
Over the years I’ve carefully constructed a complex and elaborate system of walls and gates, many layers deep. My ability to create boundaries is something for which I’ve even received compliments and commendations. I’m profoundly skilled at protecting myself. The problem is that, like my perfectly crafted imaginary scenarios, I rarely take the risk of actually playing the game.
I do think boundaries are healthy, and there are certainly seasons and circumstances which call for them. I was abused for many years as a child and pre-teen. I was constantly bullied and alienated by my peers. I was deeply wounded by a few key friends as a teenager. Each of these major events caused me to create a healthy boundary to protect my heart. But each time I sustained an even minor offense or trespass, I added to those healthy boundaries.
Over the course of 27 years, I’ve nurtured and cared for those walls as they’ve spread like weeds and rooted themselves deeply in the soil of my heart. Every time I’m hurt, it simply confirms the necessity of my boundaries and encourages me to add to them. Pride and fear shaken together is a powerful cocktail, making it virtually impossible for anyone to really get to know me, and keeping me from meaningful relationships. I easily recognize guardedness in other people because I’m the most guarded person I know. I think it comes off as condescending but I’m really just scared of what everyone will do to me or think of me.
This September, I asked God to teach me how to live fearlessly. Every day, I feel the pull towards it. I hear the invitation repeated.
Live Free Indeed.
Last Sunday Jesus said to me clearly, “It’s time for real freedom, Rachel. Will you take my hand and walk into it?”
“God is kind, but He’s not soft. In kindness He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life change.”
Romans 2:4, The Message Translation
One of the things I’m learning about Jesus is that He isn’t harsh. He’s gentle, but He’s firm. Good, but not safe. I was scared of what He would say about my behavior, that he would demand I make impossible changes in my life. But over the last few months, He’s lovingly revealed my need for Him. He’s tenderly led me to examine my behavior. He’s quietly begun to soften my heart. In fact, this Simplicity project is a product of my journey towards Jesus.
He has asked me to make some impossible changes, and they’re happening simply because I’m allowing myself to be moved, the same way a physical therapist works with an patient. He guides me in the work but I have to say yes to it and, often, endure the discomfort.
So I’m saying Yes again, I expect I’ll have many chances to choose Yes over the coming months, I’m allowing Jesus to tear down those walls. Bit by bit or all at once, I have no idea, but they’re coming down either way and everyone is going to see what’s really behind them.