“Why won’t you let me in?” “Why do you keep yourself from me?” “I want deep intimacy with you, but something is missing.”
Big Guy knew that I kept walls between us.
I had built a fortress around me to keep myself emotionally safe.
Since childhood, I’d built thick walls, one brick at a time and one stone at a time, sealing the cracks before anything hurtful could seep in.
Many of us have built thick walls around ourselves. We want to protect ourselves from hurt. We want to feel safe, worthy, and loved.
Too often, we have learned somewhere along the way that these feelings are not fully available to us. Instead of safe, we’ve felt endangered. Instead of worthy, we’ve felt worthless. Instead of loved, we’ve felt rejected.
So we constructed walls to help build those feelings for us. Our walls are built of varied bricks and stones—scripts, beliefs, and memories that will trap us within our walls:
- I must keep the house spotless to prove that I deserve it.
- Wanting something too much will result in something else being taken away.
- We keep secrets to ourselves so we don’t bring shame.
- My value comes only from what I do and not from who I am.
- If I do what you want me to, I give my power to you.
- Losing control is the way to deep pain.
- I must be perfect.
- If I change, I lose.
The walls are real. They trap us inside, rendering us unable to reach out in true human intimacy. We come to believe that life is what happens only within those walls, terrified of what would happen if we tried to leave them.
Sometimes we know we’re trapped, so we try to leave anyway—but without the walls we are in an unfamiliar and foreign land. So we retreat and pull ourselves back inside the thick walls, sealing ourselves up so the unfamiliar doesn’t creep in.
The walls keep us in, and they keep others out. If someone wants to enter, they must accept the walls we’ve built. If they dare challenge the existence of even one of those stones, we push them right back out.
Someone—a husband, a friend, or a pastor, perhaps—may brave the walls enough to tell us a real and sanctifying truth. If it fits with our walls, we accept it. If it doesn’t fit, however, we reject that truth. Or we qualify it. Or we challenge the truth teller’s right to speak that truth to us.
The walls are real—yet they are also just an illusion.
My walls didn’t actually make me safe, worthy, or loved. They just allowed me to pretend that I was those things.
Many of the stones and bricks in my walls were constructed of the belief that I am unlovable. I feared that if I allowed my husband to truly know me, he would see how unlovable I was and would reject me. It was better, I thought, to sit inside my walls and prevent him from truly knowing me. That way, if he left me, I would be able to have the illusion that the woman he rejected wasn’t the real me.
I wasn’t fully open about my emotional needs with him. I disguised my insecurities. I buried my past right inside those stones. I withheld my sexuality from my husband.
My true and naked self was kept behind the walls where he couldn’t see me.
The walls were real, but the protection they afforded was false.
If my husband had left me, my walls would not have protected me from pain. I would have felt rejected and betrayed anyway. Even more, I would have had the burden of what if? What if revealing my true self would have made a difference? I’d hidden myself so deeply within my walls that I would never have known.
The walls were real barriers that gave me only the illusion of protection.
My massive walls served as an unmighty fortress.
When I began to recognize that my walls were all barrier and no real protection, I was still trapped inside. I didn’t know how to pull the walls down.
Big Guy had always seemed to think I could just knock the walls over and then everything would be fine. The very thought of taking a giant wrecking ball to my impotent walls was a bit traumatic for me. When I’d tried to leave my fortress in the past, I’d gotten so scared that I’d retreat back inside. I didn’t want that to happen again.
I began the slow process of dismantling the fortress, one stone and one brick at a time.
I began with the stones labeled “I have to do everything perfectly.” Every time I saw that stone in front of me, I carefully pried it out, pondered it, and set it aside. Then I moved on to the “I don’t deserve good things” bricks. One at a time, I pulled the walls apart.
The more stones and bricks I removed, the stronger I got and the easier it became.
And then, like a giant Jenga game, the walls came toppling down and let in the fresh air—and my husband.
I continue to trip over the remnants now and then, but with no more barriers in place, I can now reach out in true intimacy to the truth-telling husband who loves me more than I could possibly see from behind my walls.
Once I pulled the walls down, I could finally see the true fortress, the One who shows me that I am safe, I am worthy, and I am loved. My walls had been blocking myself from experiencing God’s protection that whole time, just to give myself the illusion of what had been waiting for me all along.
He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer . . . Psalm 144:2
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