Guard your Heart
I am grateful for my upbringing! It was not perfect, but whose is?! My parents both loved God, loved us and were committed to each other. We moved a lot, but mom & dad always made it a priority to find things in our new community to hook us kids in to including a church that had something positive to offer for our ages. We learned to pray for others, respect God, and most of all to desire to do His will. I am so grateful for that!
We had lots of fun times & opportunities. My mom gave me a precious gift by simply 'being a mom'. She was always there. She was home with us in our young years, and we knew that we were her priority. She is the one who has taught me how to be a mom, and who is now reflected in our children as they journey into parenting. It's amazing to me how many things just kind of pass through the generations. I watch as our children instinctively do things with their babies that I did with them. I know that these things have come from mom for which I am grateful!
My dad was the adventurer. He liked to push the edge and do things that were a little daring. We hiked trails, we canoed to James Bay, we sped down hilly roads to get a stomach thrill... he was also the one who taught me how to drive :)! It was dad who took me to try out for a girl's hockey team and dad who caught me dancing at my Grade 8 graduation! (I know these things don't mean much now, but they were a big deal when I was 12 or 13.)
But, like I said, it was not all perfect. Our spiritual roots were deep and family bonds very tight, but some emotional & relational roots were a little shaky. My dad had a hard time showing affection and feeling. He had endured a lot of verbal and physical abuse from his father and would rarely talk about it, saying that he would go to his grave without telling all... and he did. My mom was from a fairly conservative home. She was fun loving and active and never cared to discuss anything negative. She knew how to say sorry (which was absolutely HUGE in my life) and ‘held the fort’ so to speak during some extremely busy & tense years of my dad trying to establish himself in business.
It was in those years that my parents would have frequent arguing matches; the most significant often climaxing on a Sunday... go figure. I remember some incredibly tense drives to church and then we would walk in as a family like nothing had ever happened. I learned from a young age to appear normal (whatever that is) in public and to give the impression of confidence. Hindsight shows me that the pressures they faced financially, emotionally from their own hurts, and practically, were probably the greatest contributing factors to the stress in our home. Dad seemed to want reality to kind of ‘hang right out there’ (and it often did through his anger) and my mom was always trying to keep things at bay and in order.
During the first 18 years of my life our family moved 9 times. I was in 6 different elementary schools, 2 high schools, and 3 churches. I would just get to know new friends and start to relax and then we would move again, just to start the whole process all over. This resulted in an incredible fear of people as I was always trying to break into someone’s established circle. I constantly tried to give the impression of confidence, but inside I was torn apart by the fear that I would be rejected by my new found peers. As I grew, I learned to be self sufficient & independent and for the most part (which as you can guess), this is not healthy. I did not know how much I needed people and unfortunately, did not start to recognize this until I was well into my 30’s.
I want to stop here and tell you of an experience that I had in this season of my life. I am not sure of my exact age, but I was probably in Grade 3 or 4. My parents had gone away somewhere and had left me at a friend's house for the night. I remember sleeping alone in my friend's room and she went and slept in her parent's. Her room was so dark that I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. It terrified me! Somehow I finally got to sleep. Partway through the night though, I awoke absolutely horrified for there was a hand on my side. This was actually impossible as I had my back against the wall! A person could not have been there, but I couldn't see anything in the pitch black. All I knew was that it was real and it felt incredibly evil. I was petrified! I finally got the courage to find my way out of the room to ask for help. I hesitantly knocked on the parent's door and when they answered I told them what happened. (remember, I was only 8 or 9 years old) Instead of the anticipated compassion and help that I was needing, I received incredible humiliation as they thought I was overreacting and being stupid. They simply helped me find the washroom and then sent me back to bed ... to that incredibly dark room.
Hindsight for me was that I was already in a vulnerable position that night as I was nervous to begin with, staying with this new friend's family. With my nerves already on an edge and then the attack (or whatever you might want to call it!) happening, my emotions and heart were wide open and required help. Instead of receiving the love and comfort that was needed, I was given misunderstanding and rejection. Instead of the fear being shut down and healed, it was fed and rooted in. I don't know if this sounds familiar to any of you, but I have not only experienced this personally but have heard it told by others through different circumstances in their own lives.
I don't understand everything that goes on, only God truly perceives it all. What I do know is that for many years (almost 40!), I struggled against a gripping fear that I would be rejected again by a friend or someone that I trust. You see, if rejection comes through an enemy we are somewhat expectant of it and possibly not harmed by it. When it comes to us via a friend or someone we placed our trust, our heart can be caught 'off guard' so to speak and deeply wounded.
Proverbs 4:23 says this: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
I think that this explains what I am trying to say. Our hearts are pliable and vulnerable if not guarded properly. I know that I was young and unknowing in this circumstance, but those over me should have known better. You've heard the phrase, 'sticks and stones may hurt your bones, but words will never hurt you'. It is such a lie! Sticks and stones may hurt your bones, but words have the power of life and death in them!
As I hold the picture of myself; a little girl in freedom, I am encouraged and continue to seek God for who He made me to be. God through His Holy Spirit, at just the right time, revealed answers that allowed me to come closer as I responded to Him in obedience. You see, on that night so many years ago, my hearts door was opened by terror. Because the adults who were there for my protection did not protect & shield me, fear and rejection walked right in. What I have come to realize is that at the point that these fears walked in, they also sat down and made themselves at home in me. They walked in and were a constant struggle for me until I told them to leave.
If you have wrestled with fears of any kind, you know what I am talking about. For years I was terrified to go to sleep. I would not hang any part of my body over the edge of my bed for fear of something being under it, ready to grab me. I have also been a people-pleaser, always trying to keep everyone happy so I wouldn't be rejected again, being afraid to really say what was on my mind and be myself because I might get laughed at...
As God revealed these things to me I realized that to be free I would need to apply some of His principles. Here are a couple:
I'm going to stop here for today. Be blessed. I pray that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7