In the 12th century, a man built this castle because he needed safety. It’s up high on a hill. It’s walls are thick and sturdy. But it has two problems. It can form a prison for its inhabitants walling in as much as it walls out. This leads to the second problem of isolation from relationships. So where do we turn to find safety from things that threaten our well-being while at the same time enjoying rich and vital relationships with others? I think we find the answer in deeper connection with other people and in deeper honesty with God.
Sometimes people are like that castle. Their body carries the memories of trauma and wounds that are painful. So they build walls to keep themselves safe and comfortable. But secrets breed sickness of a kind. Bottled-up emotions carry an internal heaviness and private pain. Then the people try to numb the pain by overwork or many other soothing behaviors. They distance themselves from internal awareness because what’s inside isn’t very pleasant. Externally, they distance themselves from close relationships because relationships are complicated. They wall in their own vitality. Something dies and becomes unresponsive. In short they wall out and wall in.
Next to the castle is a retreat center here in Interlaken, Switzerland, where I’m one of 12 counselors providing counseling and encouragement for over 55 men working cross-culturally around the world. Many of them serve in very unsafe places. Many of them have never had a safe place where they can openly talk about some of their wounds, their struggles, their frustration without being judged. We’re hearing phrases like “loneliness, pressure-cooker, isolation, and no one to turn to.” The goal of “Traction” is to provide care and refreshment to fuel these men for the work of their calling. In addition to worship, teaching, outdoor activities and personal reflection these men allow themselves to “open up.” The counseling we offer is a tangible way of experiencing safety and relationship together. As the men risk trusting another human being, they are motivated to trust God more. And, of course, as they trust God more they can entrust themselves to other people better. That’s what makes their ministry more effective.
Susan Johnson, an expert in the area of intimate relationships, writes:
“A secure bond is the launching pad for our going out and exploring the unknown and growing as human beings. It is hard to be open to new experiences when our attention and energy are bound up in worry about our safety. It is much easier when we know that someone has our back.” p. 24
In Old Testament times, David experienced the combination of safety and relationship which he expressed in Psalm 61 and 62:
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. So will I ever sing praises to your name as I perform my vows day after day. For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
As these verses become more experientially real, we find ourselves closer to God. How is it for you? Let me know what part of this you struggle with. Let me know what has been helpful to you in realizing this i n your life.