I can do it myself!
That has been my governing philosophy for nearly my entire adult life. Only in the last couple of years have I begun to realize how untrue that statement is. In fact, my pride resulted in my obdurate refusal to see God’s love for me coming through others. But pride leads us the wrong direction (Proverbs 26:12 NAB).
I am an intensely private person; slow to open up and often perceived as aloof. In my first career I was a police officer. While some “clients” appreciated what we did for them, most did not put me on their Christmas card list. Nor would I have shared my home address. Protection of my family was paramount. I simply did not “let people in” as a matter of self-defense. I built walls. Like the cities of ancient cultures, multiple walls provided me with many layers of “protection.” The problem with walls is they cause separation.
I was raised to be of service and to give generously. Helping others is easy for me. That was a primary impetus leading me to my first career – to be able to help people in their time of greatest need. Accepting help, however, runs contrary to my instincts.
At the urging of our pastors and with the encouragement of Cathy, my wife and best friend for four decades, I have, over the last couple of years made time to read scripture regularly. Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8 NAB). It also tells us that we are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26 NAB). Logically then, if God is love, and we are created in his image and likeness, we have the capacity to love. The gospel also informs us of Jesus’s command to “love one another” (John 14:34 NAB). It is, in my view, impossible to comply with this command if we do not accept Christian love from others. Uh oh, not good news for the wall builder.
So, realizing this, I made a conscious effort to engage with people. Tentatively at first, but intentionally opening gates in the outer walls. That not-so-simple action has exposed me to some really wonderful, giving people who are in our very midst living out the command to love one another. Two, in particular, have plowed through most of my walls and are now very dear friends, inner circle friends. With Cathy, and a small number of others, they hold me accountable. Through the Christian love they have shown me, I have matured spiritually and personally. I have, I believe, become a better Christian man due in no small part to their influence. Not necessarily good yet, but better. Pondering all this, I have come to believe the Holy Spirit was, and still is, tangibly working in my life.
The biggest revelation to me through this experience is the sense of inner peace, joy, and freedom that comes from removing walls, being authentic, and allowing yourself to be valued through the receipt of Christian love from a sister or brother in Christ. Getting out of one’s comfort zone is how we grow.
In fact, I think we need to position ourselves intentionally so others can, through their actions, express God’s love for us. It is our job to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives; to intentionally make ourselves available; to surrender to God’s will. Try it. It will not be easy, but it is so worth it.