Sunday, January 23, 2011

Watching the Walls

I've been giving some thought lately to how we prevent the things we value about ourselves being exploited by outsiders... and how we protect ourselves from emotional intrusion or even invasion. This has arisen due to my feeling snooped upon in certain quarters.

Throughout my childhood, for whatever reason, I never really let anyone get too close to me... back then, friends were just people to play with who I cared about and I had no reason or perceivable need to open up on a deep and meaningful level to other people. I built a wall around the city of my heart that protected it from getting too badly damaged. The only people who were allowed in were pretty much myself and God.

However as I grew older I learned how isolated, adopting this position can leave you. A lot of the time when people look at you and cannot perceive anything beyond your walls... they tend to allow their limited experience of your interactions at face value... to be their definition of who you are; or worse, they project upon your walls an image of what they want you to be... something that me be as far removed about the truth of who you are is, as you can possibly imagine.

In short people in their fallibility do not often look for the man behind the curtain, nor understand who he really is if they should stumble upon him. People tend to get very comfortable with their own ideas of who a man is... we do like to keep people nicely filed away in categories... don't we?

Walls are okay... just so long as you don't forget to add a doorway and maybe the odd window here and there, shedding access and light into your heart... and of course as long as you don't remain hidden permanently away behind them.

I believe when you let someone into your heart (be it as an acquaintance, a friend or on a deeper level), you do so on your own terms and that anyone who can't respect that notion, should not be trusted. If someone goes looking through all your windows and scurrying up and down your walls seeking access into your life too deeply... then there is a disingenuous vein running through their actions. When someone doesn't try to get to know you casually in a direct manner, but instead  goes rifling through the elements of your life in depth first, it would appear that they are less interested in who you are... and more interested in what you can give them or what they can take out of you.

It is deeply disrespectful.

I was giving some thought to this with regard to my own beliefs as well:

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
John 10:1-6 

Isn't it interesting that Jesus uses similar terminology when describing the Kingdom of Heaven? I think God feels the same way about the Kingdom as we do about our own lives. This line of thinking has given me extra insight into Jesus other words:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6

People are often quick to use that verse as an exclusive statement... but I wonder how it would change our beliefs... if we who consider ourselves included would take a fresh look at this passage and the motives behind our beliefs.

Why do believe what we believe? What matters most to us as an end result of what we believe?  If our motivation for worship is simply to gain access to the Kingdom and life eternal... then could it not be argued that in fact, we are merely scurrying across the walls having glimpsed through the window of the Gospel message?

If someone married a person merely to get access to a substantial dowry or decided to try and enter into a relationship with someone merely to get affirmation about their own self worth... that would be an abuse. It would not be treating our neighbour as our self. It would just be selfish gratification.

Similarly if our primary aim in being a Christian remains rooted to what we get at the end of the journey, our walk is an idolatrous one... and we are not loving God.  I'm not condemning people whose journey starts out at that point. I think that can be understandable. I am saying that as we grow as Christians and become spiritually mature, we need to develop a proper relationship with God... one not based on what we have and can receive... but one based on who he is... and what that means to us.

In Ezekiel 16 God speaks of his relationship with Jerusalem... at how he first saves "her" from those that despised her and would not care for her... and yet later returns when she is full grown, to claim her in marriage. I think God totally accepts the places we start out from with him... but desires us to grow into individuals who are fully involved with him in their lives.

Back to my main point though. We cannot treat God or other people with disrespect... we cannot see them as a means to an end. 

Nor should we try and force ourselves upon others emotionally, psychologically, physically or spiritually. Jesus gave us the model for how we should approach people on a personal level:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Revelation 3:20

When God first enters our life, he respects us enough to wait at the front door. Of course, he already knows us intimately... because he created us and is omniscient.... however, isn't it comforting and reassuring that he never once abuses that knowledge to deceive us into choosing a relationship with him. He respects our free will and our individuality and values it perhaps more than we do at times.

So in conclusion, we must be careful to respect people's red lines. Walls exist for  a reason. We mustn't try and gain a foothold where we know it is inappropriate to do so. I know that when I have discovered someone trying to get close to me without my consent, it has made me immensely uncomfortable and distrustful. I watch my walls.

However when it comes to God and those who do not try and push themselves upon us, we must also remember to watch our doors too.

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