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Walled In

I spent some time on a silent retreat over the weekend at a beautiful, secluded retreat center. Spending time with God in the silence has a way of revealing more of His heart for me, but also my own heart. It's so funny how we can get used to living life a certain way and find there are things in us that need His wisdom. Most of these ways are completely unknown to us because they have become so familiar to us or are ways we have always functioned. At least that's how it is for me.

Honestly, writing this feels a bit like having a guest arrive unexpectedly at your house and and allowing them to see things in disarray. That is okay because I am learning we all have those areas in our lives and by allowing each other to see how God shows up in those places, we give each other courage to allow God into our own disarrayed spaces. 

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There have been some things in my life I have been processing and processing and processing but haven't seemed to be able to get around them. I don't know if this ever happens to you. I have been living with this inner shaming I have not been able to silence. I have felt fenced in and unable to find the opening to get out.

Over the weekend I came to realize I felt trapped because I was trapped. I had fenced myself in nicely with walls meant to protect me from shame and instead of protecting me, I found myself fenced in with the very shame I was trying to avoid. I don't know if you can relate. 

Those walls were judgments. In my haste to heal, I had othered the ones I was hurt by. When we have been hurt by another, it is much easier to categorize them as 'bad' or to 'other' them in some way than continue to love them anyway. We judge for many different reasons, and offense is just one of the many. Judgment as a response to offense masks the desire for relationship and the disappointment we may feel.  It helps us make sense of the pain in a way that temporarily makes us feel better about ourselves. In the end, this ultimately harms us and others. The funny thing is, I thought I had dealt with the offenses fairly well, but I can now see there was a lot more work to do. I mistook judgment and distance for healing.

It's like when a child loves a toy, accidentally breaks it and states, "I didn't want that toy. It was a boring toy anyway." The good toy is now 'bad'. This helps the child cope and covers his vulnerability. He is disappointed because he loved the toy but is dealing with the disappointment by calling the toy boring. Any observant adult can see this is not the healthiest way of dealing with pain or disappointment, but we do it all the time in adult world.

By judging others, we develop ways to keep them distanced from us and too often fall prey to black and white/good and bad thinking. Just like the child with the toy, the pain can seem easier to deal with if we label the people or place we were hurt by as 'bad.' We wouldn't usually use the word 'bad' because that is a little too obvious, but we may label them in other ways that help us distance from them internally. 

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When we seek to categorize others, we are trying to categorize ourselves as well. If we can categorize the other as 'bad' or as 'less than' then we can feel better about ourselves. It can go the other way too. Sometimes we judge ourselves harshly compared to others and come up lacking. Truthfully, judgment is one of the best defenses we have unless we find our identity in something else. It has to be Someone greater than the shifting comparisons we so often fall into. Our judgments of others reveal where our identities are not rooted in God.

 If my identity is in being a good mom, I will judge other people's mothering because I will constantly be comparing myself to them. If my identity is in my corporate job, I will always be comparing myself to others in the corporate world to measure my worth. If my identity is in being a good person, I will constantly be judging others' 'goodness' according to my own standard. We can find our identity in so many things. Whatever our identity is in, we will use that thing as a measuring stick for ourselves and others. It is how we so often measure our worth. When we are hurt, we feel our worth has often taken a hit in the process, so the most natural response can be judgment. We can know how rooted we truly are in God by how we respond to offense.

If you would have told me I was judging others I probably couldn't have seen it, but God began to show me the ways I was thinking and some of the internal decisions I had made against others. These were subtle and not spoken, just inner workings deep in my heart. Judgment always comes back to bite us. God always shows us truth to free us. I was not rooted in Him as completely as I had thought, and I imagine I will keep finding this out my whole life. I hope I do, because the more He shows me, the more rooted and free I can become.

I was experiencing Matthew 7:1-2 in action. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

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My judgments had walled me in and I too was experiencing the weight of them. Judgments prevent love and true healing. We feel the weight of our own judgments and when we judge others, we also judge ourselves in the process. This always leads to pride or self-loathing. Neither are good for our soul.

I don't think it's any coincidence that we are talking a lot about shame right now in our culture. Judgment and shame are best friends and where you can find one, you usually find the other. Our culture is a judgment culture and judging has become as familiar as the air we breathe. It's often difficult to detect in our own lives because it is all around us. It can even mask as wisdom.

I had been trying to get rid of the shame that kept showing up, but I was unaware it had grown from the judgements I had allowed. Judgment had walled me in with the shame. This weekend, as I let go of the judgment, the shame began to dissipate. God always tells us the truth about us so that He can free us. 

When we have been offended, making judgments is often a knee-jerk reaction. Sometimes we call them 'boundaries.' I'm not saying boundaries aren't good or healthy, but sometimes what we are calling 'boundaries' are actually walls of judgment with a more culturally acceptable name. We have to be really careful to understand the difference. If we are calling judgments 'boundaries' they are still harmful to us and our relationships. I really loved my 'boundaries' because I thought they were keeping me safe, but I got mixed up and had accidentally erected walls of judgment.

Boundaries are sometimes necessary, but serve a different purpose than judgments. Boundaries promote healing, love and healthy relationships but judgments promote hurt, hatred and disintegrating relationships. With boundaries, we can love from afar if we need to, but judgments don't allow for love at all. Judgments often look like writing people off. Boundaries can work alongside forgiveness. This may or may not mean restored relationship but it will mean true freedom.

I began to see we have two paths to take when we have been hurt. We can take the path of judgment or the path of healing, but they are not the same path. Sometimes we get a little confused and lose our way.

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At the beginning, both paths start at a similar point but as you walk along, the paths begin to diverge and have different outcomes. If you find yourself in a cycle of shame and pain from a past offense that you do not seem to be healing from, that is a sure sign the path you have chosen is not the path to healing.

The good news is that Jesus has no problem helping move to the path that will actually bring us to freedom. It takes sitting with Jesus and letting Him speak and show us where we got a bit confused on our journey, but He is incredibly wise and knows exactly how to do it. He always helps us do what He's asked us to do. We are never asked to give something up without Him offering Himself in return. He is offering to untether us from what is harming us and tether us to Himself - the One who loves us unconditionally.

There is a moment that can be a bit scary as we let go of what we thought was keeping us safe but haven't quite grabbed a hold of God yet. When we find the courage to do that, we find He is covering us. It's owning our pain, our insecurity and the deep things in us that have driven us to hide behind judgments. It's not easy. We have to come out of hiding to be hidden in God. It takes a lot of courage. We hold onto judgments and unforgiveness because it feels safe but in the end they harm us. They kill relationships and keep us walled in in a world we would never knowingly choose. Our judgments are often our best attempts at freedom, but God has so much more for us! 

Are there any walls of judgment in your life that you are hiding behind? What may be one step God is asking you to take today?

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