I have been a closed door. I have been a well-defended castle keep, building up walls and moats and shooting arrows at anyone who got too close. I have hidden myself– this wild, shaking heart of mine– behind high barriers of humor and skin-deep spirituality and comfortable honesty about things that didn’t hurt.
I don’t know when I started this, the self-protection. But I know when I realized it was there, and that it was destroying my heart.
It happened in the fall, on a Sunday morning, early, as I did battle at my kitchen table– battle in a spiral-bound journal, with a black ballpoint pen, against flesh and fear. I realized then that the self-protective armor I wore was not the armor of God but a heavy burden I dragged around. I have been so afraid to fail, so afraid to look stupid, or unspiritual, or wrong. I have been afraid of rejection and the words of others. And so I have built up walls, as if my own efforts could hold my insecurities at bay.
My homemade armor is heavy and destructive, but doesn’t really protect me. That fall morning I came to realize that God was the One sworn to protect my vulnerable heart– that He had provided His own armor, and right over my heart the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness. This I know– I have no righteousness of my own. It is all the righteousness of Christ that is mine now, that guards my heart. And that is enough.
That day, in my mind’s eye, I saw myself before an altar, throwing my armor and my heavy burden onto it– such a sacrifice I wept with it– and walking forward, in the invisible but mighty protection of my loving God.
That was what I think of as the beginning of the opening, although the work God does in me seldom has a true beginning that I can ever see.
In 2016, He calls me to an opening, and I look with fear and with wonder and with joy on this new adventure.
He calls me to open my eyes to see His blessings, to see others as He sees them, to see Him at work where I might not expect it.
He calls me to open my heart to those in my life who need my love and affection, who need to see the realest me, who need to see Jesus in me.
He calls me to open my mouth and praise Him and talk about His goodness and His grace and His work in my life.
He calls me to open my hands to accept each gift He gives and to hold loosely to each one– to bless the Lord who gives and takes away.
He calls me to open His Word, to open my home, to open my arms.
He calls me to open myself fully to Him, to be a vessel emptied to be filled, to be poured out.
In this word– opening— I see a sweet hope and I see so much grace and mercy and I also see so much I am afraid of. The armor I laid down that day in the fall– I have picked it up more than once since then, and have had to lay it down again. And it was only one of the layers of armor, of walls, of prickly protection I have built up around myself. There is relief when the walls come down, but also pain and dread and the hard sacrifice.
I hold my dreams for this year in my hand– my opened hand– like a tightly closed bud, and I wonder what the flower will look like when it blooms. I imagine God my Creator holding me in the same way, coaxing me to blossom one little petal at a time. I cannot foresee the process, but I know my God, and I know He holds my heart gently and treasures me in a way of which I will never be worthy.
And so I pray, let me open this wild, shaking heart to the grace of this good and patient God. Let me open like a flower facing the sun, like a window flung up to capture a spring breeze, like the front door of a parent welcoming a beloved child home. And I know that there will be days when the opening is hard, when I open like a wound or a surgeon’s incision. And on those days, I pray for grace to never forget the One who opened His arms wide enough for the cross, just because He loved me.
How could I do anything less for Him?
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.