The most dangerous place I ever found myself, was inside the strong fortress that I had built. Early on in my journey, I began fortifying my defenses, brick by brick. If I couldn’t feel anything, it couldn’t hurt me. Of course I didn’t set out to build a fortress, I was just being practical and realistic (two of my “strengths” that often drive others crazy!)
I recently spoke with a mom who is right there, inside that fortress, and I peered over the walls and saw the tears that were perpetually right behind her eyes, and I suddenly remembered all those feelings myself – and wanted to make sure I sound a loud alarm to you all: Tear down the wall!
(So my 80’s years are coming out strong in this post, sorry! Between Reagan’s famous quote and the Sting song I just can’t stop singing while I’m typing, my age is pretty obvious.)
In and out of specialist and therapist waiting rooms, I had seen my share of moms who were just raw. Their emotional exhaustion and loneliness were draped around them like a heavy coat. I felt so bad for them…and so much better for me because I had stuffed my exhaustion and loneliness far behind thick walls. It was a defense mechanism, one that lots of other special parents employ, just to get through each day. If you’re a wreck, you can’t make it to all the doctor visits, tests or therapies, much less function at home with kids to feed and house to clean, or at work, with a job to maintain while constantly begging extra time off for all of the above.
The mom I mentioned, who is there now, has every reason to be walled-in. If we keep the metaphor going, there are all types of battles, fires, and disasters raging around her – the fortress is her only safe place it would seem. Except that it’s not.
I discovered two things after my years of expert masonry. First, the walled-off mommas were just as easy to spot after a while, and honestly their mess was just as obvious. I’m so thankful that I ran into a couple of moms with some huge fortress they had been working on for many years. I was able to see that their distant, aloof nature wasn’t fooling anyone into thinking they were “fine” as I had hoped mine was. I realized that their dishonesty about the situation around them was as alarming to others as was the overly gushing and emotionally raw mom. The difference was, I was aghast to discover, the open momma always had friends! People were constantly helping her. The mom who pretended she had it all together, never received offers of help because those thick walls had signs posted all around “keep out.” I wasn’t fooling anyone and no one was going to rush in to save me.
More important was my second discovery. When you build a wall around your heart, it can’t be healed. The truth is I had my heart walled-off because it was wounded and fragile. It needed to be protected. The wall made sure my heart was preserved in its current state. Wasn’t gonna get any worse…..but I failed to realize that meant it wasn’t gonna get any better, either. In order for my heart to be healed, I would have to take it out of it’s protective vault. I ran into a phrase in Ezekiel 36 that overwhelmed me. God is telling His people of his plan to rescue and restore them. In verse 26 He says “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh.” I still remember the day I read that, so many years ago, and realized for the first time that I had a heart of stone! I also realized that the only way to get rid of it was to allow God to remove and replace it with a new heart. The Message Translation of the Bible explains what that looks like, this is verses 26-28: I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!
I gave my stone heart to God, and allowed Him to replace it with a heart of flesh. It meant the new heart was again vulnerable. But because the new heart was accompanied by His Spirit and God-willed, I trusted that an honest heart was the best. I believe that if I’m God’s, and He is mine, then wherever He allows my heart to go, I’ll survive. It hasn’t always been easy but I am grateful for this new heart that is flesh. This heart that feels and even hurts sometimes.
I joked about the Sting song, but I have to leave you with some of the lyrics – because they fit exactly the one who has built a fortress around her heart.
Is this why you built the fortress?
“Under the ruins of a walled city/crumbling towers and beams of yellow light/no flags of truce, no cries of pity/ the siege guns had been pounding all through the night”
Even Sting knew, this is how the walled heart ends:
“This prison has now become your home/a sentence you seem prepared to pay”
If your heart has become stone, perhaps because of siege guns pounding, you don’t have to accept that isolated prison as your home. God has a plan to give you a new heart.