I stood on top of Fort Fredrick two days ago, and while ants bit my legs and the sea breeze whipped my hair, Jesus and I had a conversation about love.
You gotta understand, I’m not so good at loving. Really though. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. I’m just learning now how to do it properly.
You see, I had a tower built in my heart. The cornerstones of this tower were Pain, Inferiority, Fear and Performance. Not a great family to build a tower on, to be sure, but I did. The small stones had many names… betrayal, mistrust, anger…. on and on to the sky.
What did this tower surround? My ability to give and receive love.
Weird, isn’t it, that I would hide something that I wanted so badly to give away? I mean, how could I share something that was locked deep inside a fortress?
Well, I’ll tell you how it all started. I wasn’t always this way! One day, long ago, I started believing a lie. What lie? The lie that to love someone meant an instant assignment to protect them.
That is, after all what people do if they care about someone, right? It’s even, to the proper degree, scriptural. I was very good at it. Protecting those I loved came naturally for me.
But I took it too far.
I started crashing. I realized that I couldn’t be strong for everyone, so I started shutting people out. If it seemed like they were asking too much of me… too much strength when I was weak, too much emotional energy when I had none, I cut them off. Not from myself, mind you! From unlimited love. I just went only so far, and then stopped. They could visit my tower, but only stay as long as I allowed.
Why? Because if they stayed, I’d have to protect them…. fight their battles as well as… or even instead of… my own, and I already knew I couldn’t do that for everyone. I’d tried.
“There’s GOT to be a better way”, I thought one day. I was desperate for change. No, not change as in money. Change as in, a different way of living. A better way. I packed my bags and went on a long journey.
Up mountains, along crags, and through valleys I hiked, and along the way, I learned a new skill called “receiving love”. It meant valuing myself enough to accept words Jesus says about me that did not feel true. It meant valuing others enough to bless them by being a gracious receiver. It meant taking their love for what it is–a direct outpouring of love from Jesus Himself.
In return, Jesus pulled out the cornerstone named ‘Inferiority’ and my tower began to sag, just a bit.
With the love of Jesus now boiling inside of me, I powered onward, and found I had new courage to learn a second skill, called “saying no”. I learned, through Jesus the gentle Teacher, that sometimes it really was ok to say no… to a favor I was asked to perform, or to a task, or to a responsibility, or to a role. Sometimes it was better for everyone if I just said no.
No. That was a hard word for me, but I finally learned it.
In return, Jesus gave me a gift. Space! Space to let Him set my priorities. Space to love Him first. He grabbed the cornerstone named Performance and tossed it far from me in one mighty heave.
What did I do with all this new-found space? I used it to deal with the last cornerstone, Pain, and it’s ugly partner, Fear. Funny how the two go hand-in-hand.
Or claw-in-claw. It’s not funny at all, really.
Jesus said to me, “I brought you this far. Will you trust me? Will you trust me to know how much pain you, and the people you love can handle? Because if–no–when! When you trust me that much, you can love without limit knowing that when the people you love suffer, it will be for My glory, and that fact will make their pain worthwhile in your eyes!
You can live without fear because you’ll know that suffering will not last forever! That I always, always and always have something rich and spectacular in the making!
I, and I alone, hold the role of ‘Protector’. You can have so much more freedom to disappoint,–even hurt people, and still you’ll know, as long as you are pleasing Me, that they will be ok.
Will you let Me have My rightful place?”
Standing on the top of Fort Frederick, 25-knot winds threatening to blow me over the side, I said, “Yes! I will let you have that place!” I picked up a small rock, part of the fort’s wall, and threw it into the jungle with all my might. It crashed through the brush and disappeared.
In my mind’s eye, that rock was me, escaping the tower of self-produced love forever. The remaining parts of the tower–its last two cornerstones (Pain and Fear) smashed to smithereens–collapsed in a mighty crumbling, and blew away on the wind.
All that was left by the sea was me, Jesus, and our perfect love, alone in a real world where ants were still biting.
I’m so glad the last bit of that tower is gone.
The only walls that trap us are the ones we build ourselves.