Would you consider yourself a protective person? Pretty chill until someone messes with one of your people and then you’re up in arms? About wanting to keep someone from any perceived threat?
Protecting others can be tricky.
I want to tell you a story about a kid who wore a helmet when her parents discovered she was a bit too
clumsy, accident, prone curious for the average toddler.
What if they hadn’t put the helmet on her? And instead they had put her in fences of a play pin with only a 4×4 space to explore? Or what if they used a “child safety tether” (read: leash) instead?
There she was, the kid with a helmet whose dad pulled her back from walking in distractedly in front of a
few buses. The same kid sneaky watched an episode of E.R. behind the parents (who were totally obsessed) circa 1996. In that episode, they highlighted the genocide in Rwanda and she decided then and there, tears and all, that she was going to have to go to Africa. That same kid’s parents stood at security and hugged her off to India, then to her long-awaited Africa, then to her graduate school where they couldn’t put a helmet on her to keep her from bearing the burdens of others. That same kid was drawn to jobs like emergency rooms, safe houses for abuse victims, crisis hotlines and talk-you-off-the-ledge type jobs.
What if her parents took their job as protector to mean they needed to fence her in, not let her get in over her head, not let her try something she might fail at? How much sheltering is helpful and what role does trust play in all of it?
The bounds of protection in spiritual terms maybe look something like this. Do my spiritual leaders make sure I have a helmet on and then let me free or do they build 4×4 fences and say these are the boundaries in which God is known and experienced.
Is the helmet of salvation enough? What’s the Body’s role in protecting each other? What about under-shepherds?
From the experiences I’ve had and the lives of mentors I bear witness to, I see that sometimes protecting brothers or sisters in Christ means knowing the Lord is just as present in our questions as He is in our answers. The urge to protect another spiritually should always be checked by the Spirit of God and aligned with scripture.
If we aren’t careful, we see members of the Body being crippled and stunted in the name of spiritual protection. The goal cannot be to keep others from any and all suffering. Prayers for safety are much more prolific than are prayers for growth and the glory of God is what I’m sayin’.
The word “suffer” is from the Latin and literally translates ‘to bear under’. Suffering is something that we are promised in scripture if we are His.
In this world you will have trouble,
but take heart!
I have overcome the world.
:: John 16:33 ::
I don’t know about you, but I have never hand-picked my own genre of suffering. It is out of our control and that alone causes us to suffer for lack of trust. This means we are bearing under that which is out of our control. In this, it’s more than the fact that we can’t take the actual trouble; we can’t seem to handle not having total control of it and/or be self-sufficient. This is the very thing Christ came to redeem. Suffering urges our hearts to surrender so that we can more intimately identify with our Lord gaining wisdom and giving God the glory!
But what if we think protecting other believers means keeping them from all suffering? Too often, we (I) want to rescue others from God-ordained suffering too soon. OR step in an attempt to protect another believer and so direct them away from the opportunity to be stretched in their faith.
Praise God that those who have protected me have not stolen me away from the joy of my suffering and the growing of my faith for fear that I may be hurt in the process. I pray my brothers and sisters in Christ have the same story to tell when it comes to our friendship.
It’s taking part in trusting others to come into my suffering that invites strength in the body. This strength is not like the world’s as it doesn’t toughen up, rather it leaves room for more vulnerability. This is the type of suffering in community that helps me in the fight to keep a soft heart!
clumsiness adventurous spirit hasn’t changed much since I was learning to walk (i.e. I half fell/half walked out of a restaurant earlier this week), but I’m so thankful for physical and spiritual protectors who trust the Spirit’s work in my life. Whose ultimate goal was to see me grow and not to see me safe. I’ll keep that spiritual helmet on and am thankful beyond words for it. Let’s be careful to examine our spiritually protective instincts and remember we have a Father who is sovereign in the details.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
:: Psalm 16:5-11::