As an extremely shy, introverted, and fearful youth I often retreated into my easily controlled fantasy world. I was reluctant to open up or talk to people or didn’t know how. I’d sit in a high school classroom and fantasize about putting a glass box around myself. A place where I could read, observe, or do what I wanted unseen by others.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t a fantasy. I succeeded but my hiding resulted in the reverse of what I thought. I put myself in a box that blinded me to others. I shut myself away so I became almost unreachable.
I escaped into a self-protective mindset that caused me to avoid eye contact, especially with strangers and to engage in non-committal conversations. It caused me, as someone once told me, to be “like a knight in impenetrable armor.” I felt safe in that armor. I could look out and determine when and where to let someone in. The problem is I isolated myself and prevented others from knowing me. I developed the habit of keeping people at an emotional distance.
Thankfully, God began to open my eyes in my early twenties and He’s been helping me since to learn. I’m in my sixties and continue to see what I’ve reaped from that box. I still avoid eye contact with strangers and honestly have to be intentional about looking friends in the eye.
I’ve come a long way since high school and I’ve had some great moments over the years of opening up to others. But, I’m still learning and always will be. The awesome news is my heavenly Father loves me exactly as I am and always has. But He also loves me enough to help me change. The grace of Jesus Christ covers every moment I ever shut someone out even though I still reap consequences. His love for me is eternal and secure. In spite of my weaknesses I have a husband and a son who love and respect me, and many faithful friends and loved ones.
My prayer is that my Father will help me take a sledgehammer and smash the rest of that glass box and crush the armor to pieces.
Is it possible I can live being who I am and stop trying to manage perceptions or keep people at a distance? No one can live perfectly open and free. Hey, we’re human! But with the help of Jesus, I’m learning to walk freely knowing He loves me as I am, knows all my sin and weakness, has already covered them on the cross, and has called me to walk in freedom.
And when I’m tempted to retreat, I can remember Psalm 32:7, which says, “You” God “are my hiding place…”
I don’t need a box, a suit of armor or any other self-protective stance.
God is my hiding place.
I first published this at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud