When did it become so cold? So distant? So protected? I noticed it and ignored it. I pushed it away with my well-trained thought processes. I was responding properly to situations, even situations that required an emotional response. But I knew that my heart was silent. It wasn't empty, or exhausted. It wasn't angry or hurt. It was just silent. When did it happen? How did it get that way?
We learn skills over time to protect ourselves from things that have hurt us or that we fear will hurt us. One of those skills is "fortressing". A fortress is a protective edifice that one can run to and be secure inside. It is nearly impossible to get into a fortress when the doors are closed. There is a limited view to the outside as well. Usually a fortress provides small window at the very top of the structure to view the world outside. I wasn't even really aware I was building a fortress. But my heart was telling me that it was securely hidden away with little interest in coming out and being exposed to the outside world.
Fortressing is not necessarily a bad thing. It certainly serves a purpose. In wartime, a fortress has on more than one occasion been the hallowed ground of the battle victory. But it can also be a place where the victory is lost and there is no escape. It was time for me to decide if my heart was safely guarded or slowly dying inside the fortress. The answer wasn't hard to acknowledge. My heart was silent, peering out the small windows in the top of the fortress, waiting for...something. Uncertain of what that might be, I began to take an inventory. What put my heart in the fortress in the first place?
Unkind comments, biting criticism, friends who walked away, those who judged my motives unfairly, the need to think more than feel in a world where unspoken agendas are life's strategy. Life transitions, the grim reality that not every individual or social system wanted everyone to win. Maybe the easiest way to say it--the realization that a war was happening and I was an unknowing soldier. That's what put my heart in a fortress.
There is no getting away from the war. It's all around us. But there is a retreat for the heart. Certainly, there are times when my heart needs to be in the fortress, but there are more times when the banner of love and the hope of God's goodness are my strong tower. When I carry the white flag of surrender into a battlefield of wounded people, a different kind of interaction begins. The weapon of God's love overcomes fear (1 John 4:18). The weapon of God's Hope overcomes disappointment (Romans 5:5). The weapon of God's Peace overcomes turmoil (Isaiah 26:3). The weapon of God's Joy renews my strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
As I redefine the battle and take stock of my weapons, I realize that hiding in the fortress only silences my heart and steals my opportunities for effectively winning a victory. The reassessment allows me to find the beauty from ashes that is promised to those who trust in the Lord even in the midst of the darkest hour. With weapons in hand, I'm ready to step out into the enemy territory once again, renewed, refreshed, ready to surrender to the God who wins every battle. My heart is no longer silent but sings to the One who leads me steadily forward with love.
Thank you Father, that you are the strong tower we can run to. Thank you that you lead the way. Thank you for providing the weapons of our surrender to be used effectively for your Kingdom. You lead us to victory. Amen.
Shelley Lopez, Executive Director
Shelley has been a member of the Springfield community for 29 years. As she lives and works and worships in the city, she uses the metaphor of an old Victorian house restoration to keep her focused on the work she is called to do. Inspired by the words of the prophet Isaiah, she pours herself into "restoring old ruins, rebuilding and renovating, making the community livable again" (Is. 58:12 MSG)