I've learned in my Lent study that there are mini steps in allowing my heart to break, by letting go of my defenses.
Reminds me that allowing character (or emotional) defenses to be removed is a lot like working with Steps Six and Seven. Need prayer for Step Seven, and I think the most gentle effective prayer is gratitude.
The first step in allowing my heart to break is gratitude for all my emotional defenses. The point here is to appreciate what I already have, before I discard the old or pursue something new in this clearing period. Gratitude is prayer, and helps me let go in a healthy way.
A prayer of thanks, that as an adult I used strong defenses, and my Higher Power, to get me through a tough time without good support systems. I needed an inner resolve when I broke up with an abusive mate. It was hard for me, because I struggled between seeing his point of view, and needing to honor my own. Low self-esteem got in the way, until the day my defenses kicked in.
I owe the armor I that has protected me a debt of gratitude for getting me through life-shattering change. Armor has kept many of us sane or even kept us alive. Or at least served in muting or deflecting pain.
So. Before I abandon old defenses (like my Inner Critic) or put on new ones, I need to express gratitude "for the defenses that served me well." Let me be grateful for my heart just the way it is, as hard as it may be. When I have said my thanks, then I can break open the shell encasing my heart and reveal the preciousness beneath.
I need to respect that as a child, I (like many of you) had special creativity in developing effective defenses. We have to be stubbornly resourceful sometimes, when families don't allow children to speak up for themselves or neglect to show them how to express emotions in healthy ways.
But as we learn more active, life-affirming, ways to protect ourselves as adults, we may not want to be so hampered by childhood defenses. Overactive defenses can get in our way or drive others away. They can also keep God out.
As an example. My ole Inner Critic usually identifies my defenses (or lack thereof) quite effectively (if unkindly). So I usually thank him, for pointing things out, and wave him aside if he can't HALT at pointing out those flaws. However, when I found myself as a mom, finally coming to terms with childhood wounds in a "grown-over graveyard," I had take steps to put my Inner Critic to "time out," with a cup of tea and a dry biscotti to keep his mouth occupied. That was how I separated myself from defenses that would have sabotaged me.
The second step in letting go of my defenses, is naming them. Naming my Inner Critic, certainly helped me to set a boundary with him.
Next post, I will share in detail about two major types of defenses, that when surrendered, allow God to work more easily in my life.