In my last post, I talked about how experiences, especially traumatic or painful ones, create hyper-vigilance and self-protection. It most likely won’t surprise you to hear I had a traumatic experience in junior high. Isn’t junior high a source for the most traumatic experiences around? (And excuse me: for you younguns, it’s now called middle school!)
I can remember it so clearly….(dramatic music plays in the background). I had a crush on a junior high boy named Allan. He was such fun and seemed to treat everyone nicely–unlike the plethora of cliques from which I felt left out. I didn’t even entertain the thought that he could like me in a special way. It was just too far out.
But one day I opened my locker and inside was a little piece of paper which obviously had been forced through the vent in the front door of the locker. As I opened the folded note, I happened to hear giggling and looked over to see two girls standing nearby, who averted their eyes quickly. I thought, What’s wrong with them?
I looked again at the note which said, “I like you. Do you like me? Alan. Check the box and return to my locker.” There were two boxes with “yes” and “no” written beneath.
Oh my! My heart skipped a beat as I stared at it, afraid that the lettering would disappear or I would wake up from a dream. I quickly pulled a pencil out of my purse, marked “X” on the “yes,” and walked a few feet to Alan’s locker, putting the note through the vents in his locker. My heart felt light and happy. Someone liked me! Alan liked me! This is so exciting!
I don’t remember how but somehow I found out the giggling girls had written the note. It wasn’t Alan at all! I felt so embarrassed. I felt like a fool. How stupid of me to believe anyone could like me and how stupid of me for falling for such a trick. I felt ashamed that I had appeared imperfect before my peers as my neediness was revealed in bright colors. And what did Alan think of me? Surprisingly, he never said anything negative to me. That was the only bright spot.
But my spirit was wounded and I vowed to be more careful about trusting people. Thinking of those giggling girls made me hyper-vigilant. Why didn’t I pay attention to them? Why didn’t I know what it meant? If only I’d been more careful and aware, I could have prevented being looked at as a stupid fool. My self-protective sinful strategy became skepticism. Don’t believe what you’re told or what it looks like, it may not be true.
Of course, other experiences fueled those strategies; it wasn’t only one thing. And even now, I can slip back into those same self-protections when I don’t surrender to the Lord.
Can you think of an experience that created vows and strategies? What should we do about them? The answer is repentance and surrender.
Repentance means we recognize how these strategies are sinful: they leave out God. To overcome this particular self-protective sinful strategy of skepticism and hyper-vigilance, I say to the Lord, “Precious Lord, I confess I am trying to make sure I’m not seen as a fool and stupid. I confess I’m looking to the opinions of others to define me instead of caring the most about your opinion of me. I am trying to protect myself instead of calling upon you to be my refuge and my protector. Please forgive me and cleanse me.”
Then surrender means being willing to trust God enough that even if the thing I fear occurs, I will trust God to use it for my good and His glory. “Heavenly Father, I trust you enough to say that even if I’m seen as a fool and as stupid, I’ll remember that I have the mind of Christ in my inheritance in Christ. I believe you’ll only allow what is for my good and Your glory. If I’m seen as stupid and a fool, then I surrender to your uses for it. I know your love and kindness won’t allow anything that is ultimately harmful for me. I trust you!”
Habakkuk 3:17-19 gives us the example of surrender. Notice the word “though” which is another way of saying “even if.”
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places. (NASB)
I hope you’ll ask the Lord if a painful experience is still churning in your mind and heart, influencing the way you react today. You may find that repentance and surrender diminish the self-protection that the experience created. The Holy Spirit loves to bring healing. Let’s let Him.